Most people are confused with the distinction between joy and happiness. The difference is substantial. Often, we move through our days performing one tedious task after another—washing clothes, cooking dinner, catering to a demanding boss, without much joy or happiness. Most people seek happiness as a life goal. The truth is the Bible never promises happiness; however, it does promise joy. It even says our joy may be full or complete . . . a better goal.
Happiness is an emotion based upon “happenings.” It’s easy to be happy when things are going well . . . when you have freedom from suffering, financial security, and all your relationships are good. But when you have trouble with one or more of these areas in life, what happens to your “happiness?” It’s probably gone. And you feel sad.
On the other hand, joy is a stronger, deeper, yet less common feeling than happiness. It is not dependent on circumstances. It is rooted in who God is. It is birthed out of relationship with God, and subsequently, others. His joy supernaturally sustains our souls in seasons of heartache, injustice, and sorrow. Enduring the valleys of life is nearly impossible without the life-giving fuel of joy in Christ.
Pastor Rick Warren is quoted as saying “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” Let’s settle our hearts in this assurance and hope.
Joy can also be a by-product grounded in the idea of doing something good for someone. We have joy when—even in our suffering—we are acting for the benefit of someone else's well-being. If you have ever selflessly given of yourself or your possessions, you are certainly familiar with this feeling of joy.
So, what motivates us in life. Is it success? Happiness? Or lasting joy? If all of our efforts are focused on trying to be happy, we are missing the point. But if our purpose is to have joy in a fulfilling life, then we have to commit to and trust the Lord and love one another in a way that seeks something better than simply personal self-satisfaction.
What are you doing in your world that is causing you joy? Are you connecting with God and others through relationship and service? Do something good for someone else, and see how you feel. This is joy. Paul tells us that if we walk in the ways of God that joy is a resulting fruit of the Spirit. So also is love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
Having joy includes feeling happy. But being happy doesn’t always include joy. In its fuller spiritual form, joy involves living from God’s goodness and expressing God's goodness to others. May the joy of the Lord be your strength as a joyful heart is good medicine for your soul. It is key to a grateful life.
Ponder the difference between your happiness based on happenings and your joy based on an inexhaustible relationship with Your heavenly Father. Tether your heart to His gift of joy.
Lord, help me recognize the difference between worldly happiness and Your gift of deep abiding joy. Continue to develop this fruit of Your Spirit within me.