Growing In Faith
Joy and happiness are two related emotions, but they have distinct differences. One of the very obvious differences between happiness and joy is that happiness tends to be achieved externally and therefore comes and goes, while joy is something achieved internally and therefore is more consistent. Additionally, happiness is more focused on self and pleasure, while joy is more focused on others and sacrifice. Happiness is gained through the world, but joy is gained through the love of Jesus Christ.
We feel happy when we receive a gift or achieve an award or honor. These things are external or belong to the surface of our lives. They are superficial. Joy is something deeper. Joy has to do with our inner nature rather than the outer nature of our human character. Joy is something we feel internally in our lives as human beings. We feel great joy when we worship God the Father, and we feel great joy when we remember how our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins. We can even have joy in the midst of great trials. John 15:11 says we are reminded by this, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Another major difference between happiness and joy is that once happiness is felt, it can end in an instant. It does not sustain. Joy is more selfless which means that when you have joy, it is not for mere personal gain. It is an emotion that is felt deep in your soul and therefore endures. When you feel emotional thinking about how Jesus Christ died to save us, that is joy. When you feel emotional when your loved one finally receives Christ, that is joy.
Yet another difference is that happiness is related to pleasure, while joy is more of a sacrifice. There are many types of pleasures in this world that can make a person happy. Some of these are pleasures of the flesh that we must avoid and are listed in Galatians 5:19: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery.” These things may make a person happy in the moment due to being pleasurable, but they are not purely good but purely flesh. Paul’s letter to the Galatians emphasizes that we should not accept these kinds of things that make us happy but, rather, focus on things that give us joy. In Hebrews 12:2, we are reminded to be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Happiness is only achievable through the world, while joy is spiritual and only achievable through the love of Christ. In Galatians 5:22, Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Therefore, joy is a spiritual fruit that is given to us by the Spirit. Joy is able to be attained here on earth, but it is also something that we connect with God because it is given to us by the Spirit.
As stated before, happiness is achievable only here on earth. Worldly things, concepts, and emotions are achieved on earth and it stops there. They are superficial. So you see, happiness is merely external and fleeting. Joy, on the other hand, is achievable on earth but will last through eternity. Joy is internal, selfless, sacrificial, and a spiritual connection with God. We need joy in our lives just as we need the Father and Jesus in our lives. In Nehemiah 8:10, it says that the joy of the Lord is our strength!