Happiness or Joy?


Something I have been struggling with lately is finding joy in my circumstances. I’m generally an easy-going, glass half full type of a gal. Normally, I am content and happy about what’s happening within my family and friends circles.

But lately I just can’t shake this Eeyore type attitude, a “gloom and doom” feeling even though this is supposed to be one of the happiest seasons of the year. I mean, come on! It’s {still} Christmas and the New Year is a day away! I should be full of joy celebrating Christ’s birth and all the new beginnings just around the corner.

Now if you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you can understand partly why I am struggling; its understandable. But I feel like this deep sadness has reached into every aspect of my life and squeezed out the joy and happiness. What were once bright blue skies have become a dull, worn-out grey. The sun is no longer shining…it just seems dark and lonely where I’m standing.

So this got me thinking. Have I lost a Biblical perspective on joy?

I mean, having grown up in a Christian home, I know that Christ is the ultimate source of joy. But why, since I know in my heart that following the Lord and living my life to glorify Him brings ultimate joy, am I still struggling so much to find joy in my circumstances? Am I confusing happiness with joy?

What does it mean to be happy as opposed to being joyful? Are they the same thing or two totally different things? These were the questions I have been turning over in my mind for the past few days.

When you hear the words “happiness” and “joy,” they are often used as synonyms without any thought to their separate definitions. But what do they each mean? Should we use them differently or continue to use them interchangeably?

The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines happiness as “a pleasurable or satisfying experience”. However, it defines joy as “a source or cause for delight”.

Now a few things struck me as I read those two definitions. At first glance, the definitions themselves didn’t seem to be that different. The word choices were a bit off, but it seemed their general meanings seemed almost identical. But as I reread them a few times, I realized what it was saying was that happiness is simply a nice experience whereas joy was the source or cause of the delight. That made me think.

Happiness is a fleeting experience whereas joy is the source of some continuous delight.

So how do these definitions apply in the Biblical sphere of thought? Pastor John MacArthur, in his sermon Elements of Joy, Part 1, tells us to remember that “happiness is a response to circumstance; joy is a confidence built on relationship”. So again it shows us that happiness is based on fleeting circumstances or experiences whereas joy is the source of continuous delight, much like our relationship with the Lord of All.

Something I find extremely interesting is that depending on what translation you prefer, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times. However, “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times. While the Bible does not say we cannot be happy, its apparently not the main focus; joy is. Joy is used 10x more than the word happiness. Why? Could it be because God has called us to focus on what brings us continuous delight; a relationship with the Trinity?

John MacArthur again points us to true joy by explaining that “joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel of Christ, being produced in them by the Holy Spirit, because they receive and obey the Word of God while experiencing trials and keeping their hope fixed on the glory which is to come”.

I believe what he is saying here is simple. Because of the gift of Christ who resides within me, I can go through life with an all encompassing joy because I have the hope of eternal life.

Does this mean I have to be happy and/or joyful all the time?

Not necessarily. Ecclesiastes 3:4a tells us that for every season in life there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh”. There are times in life when happiness in your circumstances will elude you and you won’t always feel the joy your relationship with Christ brings you.

If you’re in the same boat as I am, then you are not feeling that continuous delight in the Lord. This could be due to multiple circumstances. I don’t know what’s going on in your life.

You might be moving across the country, you or your husband have lost an important job, your teenager is rebelling, a loved one has died, school is killing you, or the bill collectors are hounding after you. Whatever is the case for you, know this: while your circumstances might not a “pleasurable or satisfying experience” at the moment, delighting in your relationship with JESUS CHRIST will bring you joy like you’ve never known before.

I am writing this to myself as much as I am to you. When I am down, I need to remind myself that Christ is my constant delight and I need focus on Him in order to live out a Biblical lifestyle that is focused on true, fulfilling joy.


About natmott95

I'm a young woman who is discovering life and all the joys and sorrows that come with it. I invite you to come along on my journey and grow with me as I struggle through issues I'm dealing with, search out the truth of matters, and start to understand the way my heart works. Come on my journey and share with me the experience that its through the Lord's grace that I am able to live this life.
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