Happiness is tied to desire, and desires drive us. As a disposition, joy is more steady and constant. A disposition is something for the long haul. More settled and less focused than desires, dispositions are general tendencies that move us in predictable ways.
For example, someone with a generous disposition behaves with generosity in every season, while a mean-spirited person is predictably catty and uncharitable when magnanimity or simple silence might be more helpful. When Paul commands his community to “rejoice,” he commends to them a disposition of joy. Joy undergirds everything they do, sustaining them in good times and in bad.
Joy approaches life with open hands and a sense of wonder. Liberated from the need to possess something, the joyful person is unconcerned about possessions and outcomes. What someone has—even what she wants to have—matters less because her life is rooted in joy.
This message is adapted from “A Disposition of Joy” written by Martha E. Stortz in the October 2005 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather).