I want to share with you a few thoughts about the word joy. We’ve all used the word, heard the word used, and at times we’ve even felt like it describes an aspect of our lives. All of us want to be happy, but being happy and having joy are two entirely different things. Do you realize that you can be a very happy person but lack joy? Right about now you may be wondering and asking what the difference is between happiness and joy. Well, I’m glad you asked, and if you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you anyway. I think it is important for us to understand the difference between happiness and joy because even though happiness is a wonderful thing, and something that we should all choose on a daily basis, happiness by itself is not enough. Notice I said that happiness is something that we should CHOOSE on a daily basis. I have said before and I will always continue to say and believe that happiness is a choice. You can and must decide to be happy. I know of several people who seem to be relatively happy people, but I am inclined to believe that those same people may be running short on their supply of joy. So you’re continuing to wonder what the difference is. Well in the next few moments I will try to explain what I feel the differences are between being happy and having joy.
Happiness is derived from outward circumstances, conditions, and environments that we perceive as being good. When we have a job we love, a great family life, wonderful friends, and are in good health, we tend to be happy. When all the bills are paid, we tend to be happy. When we see our children excel in areas of life and become wonderful adults, we tend to be happy. All of these things that I just mentioned are things that involve circumstances and situations that surround us on a daily basis. The unfortunate thing about happiness is that it is often largely dependent upon what the circumstances and situations that we are involved in at the time entail. In life we are going to face difficulties and hardships from time to time. It is during the hard times in life that maintaining happiness may be a real challenge. During the turbulent times in life is when we have to CHOOSE to be happy. When you CHOOSE to be happy, what you are actually doing is filtering your circumstances and situations through positive thoughts, and you are choosing to see the positive, even when the situations that you are surrounded by may be discouraging situations. Happiness is dependent largely on our attitudes, and the way we look at things. Even in the hardest of times, we can maintain a relative amount of happiness if we simply maintain a positive attitude. Regardless of whether our attitude is positive or not, the potential for happiness always begins with our circumstances and situations around us. How positively we assess the circumstances of our lives determines our degree of happiness. In a nut shell happiness is derived from what is going on around us, and how we view and think about the things that are going on around us. Happiness tends to be fleeting and depends upon outside circumstances or other people, which are subject to change.
Now let’s talk about joy. Joy is something entirely different. It is very possible, and actually common for a person to be a relatively happy person, but not have any joy in their life. Unlike happiness, which is derived from outward circumstances and situations, joy has nothing to do with what is going on around you or what your situation is. True God-given joy will survive the trials, struggles, and frustrations of life because it is not derived from anything this world has to offer. Joy is derived from an inward experience and relationship with God. Joy is actually one of the characteristics of The Fruit of the Spirit that is spoken about in the New Testament of the Bible in Galatians chapter 5. The Fruit of the Spirit entails nine characteristics or qualities that all those who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior should exhibit in their life. Some people mistakenly think that there are nine Fruits of the Spirit. This is incorrect. There is ONE Fruit of the Spirit, but it has NINE distinct qualities. You will see this if you take a look at what we are told about the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians Chapter 5. Let’s take a look at a passage from Galatians Chapter 5.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5: 19-23, New International Version)
Notice in this passage the word FRUIT is singular. This implies that there is only ONE Fruit of the Spirit of God, but it has NINE qualities. It is no accident that happiness is not one of the characteristics. That is because happiness involves things from the world. Joy only comes from an experience and relationship with God. Joy in the truest sense is a gift from God. Now you may be looking at the other characteristics of The Fruit of the Spirit and saying to yourself, “I have love, I’m long suffering, and I have faith.” Yes, we can all have a certain amount of some of those qualities, but in the natural, they are limited by our circumstances. Let’s consider love. In the natural, it isn’t possible to love someone who hates you or has tried to harm you. But the love that is part of the Fruit of the Spirit is AGAPE love, or the God kind of love that we can only have when we have a personal relationship with God.
When it comes to joy, joy is a by-product of an impartation of God’s spirit in a person’s life. One of the scriptures in the Bible that talks about joy that comes to mind is found in the Book of James in the New Testament. In the first chapter of the Book of James it reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. “ (James 1: 2-3) Now, the New Testament was originally written in Greek. In this passage of scripture, the Greek word for joy is the word chara. The Greek word chara is derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for grace. This is important to understand, because chara (the Joy of the Lord) is produced by the charis (the Grace of God). This means ‘joy’ is not a human-based happiness that comes and goes but, rather, true ‘joy’ is divine in its origin.
To return to my original point, a person can be a generally happy person, but not have joy. This is why many people may have a job they love, a great home life and family, and very stable relationships, and yet feel like life is a daily struggle. When you are happy without having the joy that only comes from God, you feel like you’re walking through life while wading through thick mud. You’re heading in the direction that you want to go but it is exhausting. People who are happy but lack God given joy are thankful for what they have, and generally happy, but go through life always feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Happiness comes from external sources, joy comes from internal sources. Happiness comes and goes, joy is constant regardless of what your circumstances are. Without that charis, which is that Grace of God applied to your life, the true source of joy simply isn’t present in your life. In the Old Testament in Nehemiah 8:10, it says, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength.” You can go through life relatively happy, but without the Grace of God, and the joy that only comes from the impartation of the Fruit of the Spirit working in your life, it will always seem like there is something missing in your life. That missing something is Jesus Christ, and the joy that serving him will bring to your life. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:10-11, New Living Translation)
God wants you to be happy, but He wants more for you than that. He wants you to have joy, and that only comes from surrendering your life to him, and receiving the free gift of salvation and the joy that comes from His Spirit abiding within you. Go after God and go for the gusto…..go for joy!
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,