Happiness Vs. Joy
For every person who says joy is an underlying truth that good or bad circumstances can’t dictate, and that happiness is rooted in circumstance, there will be others who think the opposite, that joy is just a state of mind, the outcome of a mind seeking happiness and focused on pleasure, pleasing thoughts and pleasant experiences.
Despite the different perspectives, the idea that holds greater sway today is that experiencing happiness depends on external factors. Happiness happens to us. Even though we may seek it, desire it, pursue it, etc., feeling happiness is not a choice we make. Joy, on the other hand, is a choice purposefully made.
Happiness doesn’t bring joy, and joy isn’t the byproduct of happiness. Joy is something grander than happiness. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and when we find joy it’s infused with comfort and wrapped in peace. It’s an attitude of the heart and spirit, often synonymous with but not limited to following Christ Jesus and pursuing a Christian life.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” — Galatians 5:22-23, NASB
Regardless of one’s faith, joy is present inside everyone as an untapped reservoir of potential.
It’s possible to experience joy in difficult times. It’s possible to know joy or feel joy in spite of grief or uncertainty. Joy doesn’t need a smile in order to exist.
Although joy does feels better with a happy smile, joy can share space with other emotions — sadness, fear, anger ... even unhappiness. Happiness can’t.
Happiness isn’t present in darkness and difficulty. It can’t be present when its antithesis rules. But once discovered, joy undergirds our spirits and brings to life peace and contentment, even in the face of unhappiness.
Joy blooms through connection. It’s what God wants for us. Often the connection is with other people, but it can also be with pets, creation, creativity, etc.
Joy is present, in the moment. Every moment. Happiness is ephemeral and temporary. It’s mostly just passing through.
When happiness is present, it’s larger than life. It feels good, and nothing feels better or seems worthy of attention. But happiness is also fickle. It can be present for weeks on end and gone in an instant. True joy is constant.
The true definition of joy goes beyond the limited explanation presented in a dictionary — “a feeling a great pleasure and happiness.” True joy is a limitless, life-defining, transformative reservoir waiting to be tapped into. It requires the utmost surrender and, like love, is a choice to be made. Joy is not simply a feeling that happens.
Joy is also not great happiness or even extreme happiness. It is not elation, jubilation or exhilaration — emotions that may be present with joy, that may seem like an expression of joy, but which don’t define joy. In its truest expression, joy transforms difficult times into blessings and turns heartache into gratitude. Joy brings meaning to life. It brings life to life.