Joy and happiness…there is a difference

I have a few thoughts about the word joy. We’ve all heard and used the word. At times, we’ve even believed it describes an aspect of our lives. All of us want to be happy. But, happiness and joy are two different things. Do you realize you can be happy but lack joy?  It is important to understand the difference between happiness and joy. Even though happiness is something wonderful we should choose daily, happiness is not enough. Notice I said happiness should be chosen daily. I have always believed happiness is a choice. You can and must choose happiness.

I know several people who seem relatively happy, but I believe some of them may be running short on joy. Are you confused about the difference between the two?.  In the next few moments I will explain the differences between happiness and joy.

Happiness comes from outward circumstances

Happiness comes from outward circumstances, conditions, and environments we deem as good. Having a job you love, great family relationships, and good health can produce happiness. When all the bills are paid, we tend to be happy. Seeing our children excel in life and become wonderful adults brings us happiness. All the things I just mentioned involve potential circumstances and situations surrounding us. Unfortunately, we sometimes make happiness dependent upon the circumstances and situations around us being good. In life, we are occasionally going to face difficulties and hardships. Maintaining happiness may be a real challenge during life’s hard times. During the turbulent times we must choose to be happy. Choosing happiness requires filtering your circumstances and situations through positive thoughts. You must choose to see the positive, even when situations may be discouraging. Happiness depends upon your attitude and the way you look at things.

Even in the hardest of times, we can be happy if we stay positive. Regardless of whether our attitude is positive or not, happiness always begins with our circumstances and situations. How positively we assess our circumstances determines our degree of happiness. In short, happiness is derived from how we view and think about circumstances. The problem is circumstances are subject to change. 

So what is joy?

Now let’s talk about joy. Joy is something entirely different. It’s not uncommon for someone to be happy but have no joy. Unlike happiness, which is derived from outward circumstances, joy has nothing to do with your circumstances. True God-given joy will endure the trials and frustrations of life because it doesn’t come from anything this world offers. Joy  comes from an inward experience and relationship with God.

Joy is one of the characteristics of The Fruit of the Spirit spoken of in the New Testament of the Bible. You can find it in Galatians chapter 5. The Fruit of the Spirit entails nine characteristics Christians should exhibit in their life. Some people mistakenly think 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 it in Galatians Chapter 5.  Verses 19-23 read as follows:

Galatians 5: 19-23

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 there is only ONE Fruit of the Spirit of God, but it has NINE qualities. As you can see, happiness is not one of the characteristics. This is because happiness involves things from the world. Joy comes only from an experience and relationship with God. Joy in the truest sense is a gift from God. Now you may say to yourself, “I have love, I’m long suffering, and I have faith.” Yes, we can all have a certain amount of these 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. But love that is part of the Fruit of the Spirit is AGAPE love, or the God kind of love. Only a personal relationship with God can give you that capacity for love.

God is the source of joy

Joy is a by-product of an impartation of God’s spirit in a person’s life. A scripture in the Bible regarding joy that comes to mind is found in the Book of James in the New Testament. In the first chapter 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.

Do you have joy and happiness?

So, a person can be a happy person, but not have joy. This is why though people may have a job they love, a great home life, and stable relationships, life may be a daily struggle for them. When you have happiness but no joy, life feels like a long walk through thick mud. You’re heading in the direction you want to go but it is exhausting. People who are happy but lack God given joy are thankful for what they have. But, they 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 God’s Grace applied to your life, the true source of joy isn’t present. 

In the Old Testament in Nehemiah 8:10, it says, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength.” Without the Grace of God and the joy it imparts, it will always seem 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. But, true joy only comes from His Spirit abiding within you.  Go after God and go for the gusto…..go for joy!

 Thanks for reading!

Until next time,


Joy And Happiness: You May Be Happy, But Do You Have Joy?
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