Happiness vs. Joy

By Hannah Brzozowski


In this holiday season, it seems like you see the word "JOY" everywhere. We're constantly being told to have joy by advertisers or Christmas sweaters or decorations. The mention of the word alone tends to make me feel happy.


It got me thinking: what is the difference between Happiness and Joy?


Let's start with the definitions from good ol' Google:


Joy: A feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
Happiness: The state of being happy.

Welp, that doesn't help!


Let's look at the Bible: Happiness is mentioned a mere ten times. Joy is mentioned a whopping 430 times.


When I looked at specific verses, I saw a lot of commands when it came to joy. In James 1, it says "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds,” In Psalm 47, it says, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” I saw in 1 Peter 1, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”


There is a lot of “filling,” “praying for joy” or some sort of action. That got me thinking. What if joy is more of an action than a feeling? What if joy is a choice rather than something happening to you? Or what if it’s something that only God can provide?


When I think of joy, I automatically think of Luke 2 when the angels say, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” In this verse, it may sound like it’s something happening to the world. But when we look further, we can see that following Jesus is a choice for each one of us.


So what's the difference between happiness and joy? My conclusion is that happiness happens to us. Happiness is a momentary smile when someone buys your coffee at the Starbucks drive-through. Or when you finally get that promotion. Or you get that gift that you wanted for Christmas.


Joy is a choice that we make - the choice to trust. Trusting that God has plans for you that are good. Trusting that God is always looking out for you. This trust creates hope and peace and gratitude. To me, this trusting relationship with Jesus is joy.


Here are some verses to choose joy through trusting God:


Romans 8:28 - And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 26:3 - You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Isaiah 41:10 - So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Matthew 6:26-27 - Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

As I was researching I found some quotes that I wanted to share with you:


Happiness is smiling when the sun’s out. Joy is dancing in the downpour. -Rend Collective

Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness — Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes, when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love. - Adela Rogers St. Johns

Happiness is controlled by circumstances, but the joy of the Lord thrives in spite of your circumstances. - John Hagee

Joy is that kind of happiness that does not depend on what happens. - David Steindl- Rast

So today, don't wait for happiness to come to you. I challenge you to choose joy.


Wanting to learn more about how to trust God, I'd encourage you to get involved in one of our Anchor Groups. You can find out more here.

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