Thanksgiving: A Time for Joy (Not Happiness)

I had a pleasant Thanksgiving on Thursday, and I hope you did too.

Like a timely sermon, a few words on the holiday’s theme are probably in order. The discipline of thanksgiving for which the celebration is named is clearly a necessity for Christian living. This does not involve listing our “blessings” at dinner time as we are prone to do, but is comprised of optimism and contentment—it’s an attitude.

Often we ascribe this attitude to the virtue “joy” and create a dichotomy between joy and happiness. In this differentiation, joy is constant and substantial—a choice—while happiness is a fleeting emotion that is completely unChristian. The only problem with this dichotomy is that it is nonexistent in both the Bible and the English language. We made it up.

But no worries, it’s a good separation, and one I think we should keep. We need a word for a deep contentment, optimism, and thankfulness. We need a word for the choice we make to not be overcome by our depressions or loathings. When we are joyful, we are thankful and content for all that is good.

So with that understanding, I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with joy (and maybe happiness too).


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