Joy and happiness can seem very similar, but they are not the same thing, I dug into and read up on what joy is in life and how it is used in scripture to discover the difference between these two words.
What are the differences between joy and happiness? Joy is very different from happiness because joy is rooted in God and our relationship with Him. Happiness is based on feelings that give pleasure for a moment. People can pursue joy, happiness comes and goes based on your circumstances.
When you wake up with a smile on your face, is that joy or is it happiness? Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate, but some key factors make joy very different from happiness.
What Is Happiness?
Happiness is an emotion that is commonly linked to well-being. If things are going well in life then you should be happy.
This is a very materialistic view of happiness but usually proves true.
Someone may buy you chocolate, and if that is something that you enjoy then you will probably find your mood changing to a happier mood now that you have something you like.
If that means that you can become happy so easily, then you can also lose happiness very easily. If something goes wrong, or something breaks or does not go your way, there goes your happiness.
Happiness is very fleeting it can come and go immediately, and is based on things in this world that are also fleeting. We are warned against trying to fill our desires on earth because it is all fleeting.
And the world is passing away along with its desires…1 John 2:17a
This world and the treasures in this world will not last.
You can feel happy one moment, but the next forget what you were happy about because it is based on something that does not last.
Being happy is not a bad thing. There are multiple things a day that will make us happy or take away our happiness, it is only when we depend on that happiness to fulfill that we are in trouble.
We can enjoy chocolate if we like, but if we go to chocolate every day to find happiness when we are sad, then we have put our trust and relied on the wrong thing because chocolate does not last forever.
There are no issues with being happy, and many of us experience happiness regularly when something goes our way or our favorite song starts to play.
We can be happy for several different reasons, and many times there is no problem with us being happy we simply need to remember that happiness does not last because what we find happiness in does not last.
What Is Joy?
Joy is rooted in something much more lasting than chocolate or any other worldly object that may bring you happiness. Because joy is rooted in something so consistent, it does not even matter what is going on around you, you can have joy.
Looking at a dictionaries definition of joy, it is very similar to what it means to be happy, and one definition includes the word happiness in its description of the word joy.
Joy as a Christian is something very distinct and different that happiness. Joy is the contentment found in Christ, and not dependent on all of the circumstances of the world around us.
As a kid in church, you may have sung “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in heart,” and this song sums up much of what joy is. It is not on the surface but down in our hearts when we trust in God over the things of this world.
I am sure there are times in your life even as a Christian that you have not felt the joy like you think you should have, but when we as Christians are not rooted in God’s word and growing in our faith it may be harder for us to find the joy in Christ when we are not connected with him.
…but whoever does the will of God abides forever.1 John 2:17b
Unlike the things of this world that are fleeting, joy is everlasting when our joy is in Christ.
If our happiness lasts as long as the item we have put happiness in lasts, then when our joy is rooted in Christ it will not be temporal like happiness.
Being rooted in Christ means we will have joy, we see throughout scripture that we can trust in the Lord and find our joy in him.
We can find the joy of the Lord throughout Scripture but we can also see it in other people’s lives who live in the joy of the Lord.
Even looking at creation we can see and the joy and enjoy it ourselves when appreciating all that God has done and created.
We cannot find joy in ourselves or anything in this world, even a relationship with another person will fail to bring you joy.
This world is fallen, therefore nothing lasts and sin will ruin even what you think may last, but the Lord and His word last forever.
Joy runs deep and overflows, while happiness hugs hello.Compassion International
Joy In The Bible
Reading scripture there are times when all seems dismal but hope is still there. Both in the Old and the New Testament, we read about where joy comes from.
People like Joseph and Ruth as well as Paul and other apostles in the New Testament all chose joy even when their circumstances were not ideal.
Paul’s Example Of Joy In Philippians
Paul in his letter to the church of Philippi when he tells them that it is in Christ that he is content when he has very little or has a lot.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:11-13
It is in Christ that Paul found his strength in hardship.
We know that Paul did not have an easy life, he was a missionary traveling all over to share the good news of the gospel, those who were against his message ran him out of town, arrested him, and stoned him.
He eventually was martyred for his faith, but we know that he was rooted in Christ and found contentment in Christ no matter the circumstances.
James’ Perspective Of Joy
James has something similar to say when it comes to having joy when there are trials in your life. James looks at the big picture and how God is working in the trials of life.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:2-4
James has the perspective that we should have joy because we will be learning and growing, having steadfastness which will lead to us lacking in nothing.
We can see in our own lives and examples in scripture that trials do grow us, it can be hard in the moment to have joy in the Lord when everything around you is falling apart, but it gives us more of an opportunity to trust in God and what he is doing.
Joy endures hardship and trials and connects with meaning and purpose.Compassion International
The Difference Between Joy & Happiness
After doing some research, I found that both Christians and non-Christians alike know there is something unique about joy.
Joy and happiness are both something you feel, they are not simply a thought process but emotions, it is what they root from that makes them so different.
Joy is listed as one of the fruits of the spirit, which means when we have the Holy Spirit in us as a Christian, joy is an outflow of that.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
While happiness is dependent on what is around us joy is all about what is in us, mainly the Holy Spirit who is in us as Christians.
People commonly call happiness- fleeting, and joy- lasting, because each plays out differently in our lives.
The happiness that comes from temporary items or events doesn’t last long. Whereas Christians, we find our joy bases in Christ who never fails us.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to “rejoice always,” we know that Paul, the author of this letter, is not talking about happiness because we are not constantly happy in life.
While many people try to group joy and happiness, they are very distinct, and anyone who sees someone with joy will be able to tell that there is something deeper involved than happiness.
Happiness is merely external, fleeting, and is only achievable on earth. Joy, on the other hand, is internal, selfless, sacrificial, and a spiritual connection with God. We need joy in our lives just as we need the Father and Jesus in our lives.Christianity.com
Christians have a deeper responsibility to joy, when things go wrong in life we can sometimes go to things that make us happy to try and improve our circumstances.
Truly our dependence should be on God and the joy we have through Him and not the temporary happiness of the world.
Joy is a practice and a behavior. It’s deliberate and intentional. Happiness comes and goes blithely along its way..Compassion International
Choosing Joy Despite Difficult Circumstances
As we looked at earlier James writes that it is in trials that we can “count it all joy.” Trials are real. Christians face trails. Yet, we are commanded in the Bible to rejoice again and again.
When we are having a hard time “counting it all joy” when there are trials it is important to remember how God has worked in the past.
Remember what the Lord has done. He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever.
God is with you in the darkest valley and hardest times of your life. The Holy Spirit empowers you to walk with joy through difficult situations.
3 Tips To Help Bring Joy Into Life
Here are four ways you can welcome joy into your life:
- Ask God for joy: pray and tell Him what you are going through. Share your heart. Ask Him to gift you joy. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you walk in joy every day. Listen to what God is speaking back to you
- Keep a posture of worship: as you go throughout your day, thank God for what He has given you. Praise Him for your family, job, parents, and so on. Give Him glory for His goodness and grace towards you.
- Give generously: find ways to serve your church or community. Giving doesn’t just mean finically, it could be sitting with people in a nursing home or cooking meals for families who need extra help. As you serve, thank God for giving you the ability to build the kingdom of God on earth. Ask Him to fill the people around you with joy.
- Read the Bible: make getting into the Word of God a habit. As you read the Bible, learn from the stories. Ask God to open your eyes to His will and heart while reading. Look for times when people were filled with joy – ask yourself, “How can I walk out joy as they did?” Spending time in the Word will bring you closer to God. We need to be close to God in order to have pure joy.
We can find our joy in Christ that will not end because God is everlasting.
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.Isaiah 26:4
We will not be disappointed when we put our trust and find our joy in Christ. Throughout scriptures we read about the characteristics of God, they remind us that God is in control, He is working.
If you ever need a reminder of the true joy that you can find in Christ, flip through your bible to find stories of men and women who trusted in God as well as scriptures that will encourage you to rejoice despite the circumstances because God is in control.
So when you wake up with a smile, you may be happy and excited about the plans of the day, but hopefully, you will be filled with joy because of your relationship with Christ. Focus on Christ and the promises in his word to find joy no matter the circumstances.
Joy is the serious business of Heaven.C.S. Lewis