RE: Difference Between Joy and Happiness

Very little, if any difference at all.

Most articles on this topic seem to start out the same. I was somewhere, discussing something, and that historically “people tried to equate these words: joy and happiness”.  Then as the discussion went on the writer was usually able to enlighten the group to the reality that these terms cannot possibly mean the same thing. The opening lines of their arguments include slight differences in the terms and then by the end of their discussion the two words have become complete opposites!

Help me understand this.

At the start of this I recognize I may not be using the most “scholarly” evidence, but I do believe I am getting a taste for the majority of common people like myself who truly care about this topic in their life and really want to obey God’s command to find joy in the Lord and find this joy in their life everyday (Phil. 4:4).

In their answer  to the command “rejoice always” they attempt to create different meanings for JOY and HAPPINESS to define their circumstances and for this same reason (to obey this command and define my circumstances) I want to make them equivalent.

Many people distinguish these two terms with these popular responses:

1.   Showing the temporal nature of happiness found in temporal things and circumstances.

“Happiness is an emotion usually directly related to circumstances that are currently happening. So when the circumstances are good and going our way, we feel happy. On the other hand, when things break, get old, disappoint, when we do not get what we want, or when things do not go our way, we feel sad and are not happy.”
-taken from Brian Commer’s blog.

“But joy is a bigger fish, bigger than physical mundane happenings. If you are talking about a joy that comes from within, a joy that things cannot give to you and nothing nor no one can take it away. To take your mind to another level, we call that the joy of the Lord”.

-taken from the self improvement blog

“Happiness is based on circumstances but joy is based on the Lord.  Happiness is like the moon, waxing and waning. Joy is like the sun, always shining even when night falls or clouds cover it.  Happiness is like a kiss; joy a golden wedding anniversary.  Happiness is born in the mind; joy is born in the heart.  Happiness comes from humans; joy comes from God.  Happiness is like exchanging Christmas gifts; joy is the awareness of what Christmas is all about”.

-taken from kevin martineau blog 

Even Rick Warren says, “Joy is an attitude. A choice. Joy is an inside job and not dependent on circumstances. It is your choice to rejoice…Joy is learning to enjoy the circumstances…Christians can be positive in negative situations because we know God has a purpose in allowing them”.
-Rick Warren: Gods Power to Change your Life (ch.4)


2.   Equating the meaning of peace with joy.

“I periodically ask my Sunday School class members whether they are heading into a storm, are already in the middle of a storm, or are coming out of a storm. It’s a great way to link all the crises that we confront in life with our spiritual growth…I may not be happy about the circumstances in which I find myself, then or now. But I now understand what it means to “count it all joy”.

-taken from

“Since the joy God provides, is not based on our emotions (which change on a whim), we can enjoy JOY twenty-four hours, seven days a week, no matter our circumstances. There is a significant difference between happiness and joy. We can celebrate joy in the midst of any circumstance knowing that God is in control and He is at work in our lives”.

-taken from


I am confused by the assault on the term joy. Why do people try so desperately to make these two ideas separate instead of seeking to find our happiness in the ultimate and lasting things leading to ultimate and lasting joy (happiness)?


1.   An “INTENSE” or “DEEP-RESONANT” happiness solves the issue of the temporal happiness.

Rather than trying to redefine joy into something that its not it would seem to make more sense that we expand on it.  Joy is happiness, just of a more intense and deep happiness not found in temporal things, but in the only eternal thing-GOD.  This allows us to keep the idea of happiness when describing the emotion that comes along with it.  Instead of trying to create a new feeling- we can keep the emotion that comes with happiness.  When I am filled with joy what emotion erupts within me?  Happiness.  Delight.  Pleasure.  Satisfaction.  Of the deep and intense kind.

I completely agree that there is a temporal nature to happiness, especially when we seek that in temporary things.  But there can also be an eternal element.  When I put my happiness in a car I know that time marches on and the car with deteriorate and rust.  Food is a daily need and to put happiness in food is to try and fill a black hole.  I am sure you can create your own list of hundreds (maybe thousands) of temporary pleasures that are fleeting.
However, in this list how do you relate when the thing that we find delight, happiness, and satisfaction in is not temporal but eternal?  When I pursue my happiness in an eternal being, does that change the quality of this happiness?  It would lead me to believe that when we seek happiness in the only fulfilling, eternal being it no longer becomes an endless cycle of chasing the wind, but an endless journey of growing in the meaning of intense, deep, and fulfilling happiness.
Instead of stifling the desire to be happy I want to grow in it- I want to grow in the only being that can fulfill this insatiable desire to be happy.  My soul thirsts (John 7:37-39) and the only cure is more cowbell?  No.  Its Jesus.


2.   Lets let peace=peace.  Lets give joy an emotion—what emotion do you think of?  I can think of none better than happiness!

Here is the problem.  I don’t feel happy when these difficulties come into my life.  Count it all joy my brothers when you experience trials of many kinds (James 1:2-4).  Because Chritsians do not feel happy when these issues come into their life instead of trying to understand what this happiness should look like we change the definition to meet our circumstances.  When I look to scripture there seems to be an emotion attached to joy in Matthew 13:44, Ps 37:4.  The man who sells all he had did it with joy!  The guy finds a treasure in the field too remarkable for words and his only response is to sell all he has!  This passion and delight doesn’t seem to be the normal experience of the Christian life during trials.  It sure doesn’t sound like the man was filled with a sense of emotion described like comfort in the storm.  It seems to be an inexpressible satisfaction in the ultimate being and his kingdom.

Christians want redefine the term joy to meet their demeanor.  I am not happy with lives circumstances and therefore the joy in the bible cannot mean happiness.  How in the world can anyone be happy all the time?

Legitimate questions.


No.  I do not expect you to be happy when your not.  But what does that tell you?

Etiher redefine joy to meet your emotional state


Seek to grow in happiness in spite of circumstances

Because we trust that God is working and wants what is best for us (Romans 8:38-39).

When I am not happy, though the bible commands it.  I recognize how much room I have to grow in my trust in God’s promises.  It shows me my depravity.  It shows me my frailty.  It shows me that I am still growing in my knowledge of who God is and His ability to fulfill all his promises.

Oh Lord fill me with more of your spirit to trust you more-even in the hard times.

People look at their life and because thy aren’t experiencing happiness they have to find out a reason why the bible commands us to be joyful (Phil 4:4) all the time.

In the story above the man told us that he wasn’t happy but what did he have? I think he is saying he has peace. I think he equated joy with peace. A comfort, a sense of stability in the storm.  I actually really enjoyed everything this man said. It was a powerful story of truly trusting God, and I want to always be sensitive to the problems we are all facing in life. But it seems that he tries to redefine “jumping for joy” as a sense of peace. It was subtle and wasn’t until the end where he says his solution to the trials is that he doesn’t need to be happy, but have this overwhelming comfort that God is working.

Do I belive in peace!? Absolutely.  It is part of the fruits of the spirit.   But when the bible talks about joy I don’t want to define it with peace, but rather seek to understand how the author intends to use joy. If he wanted to say peace he could have said peace….but he says joy.

My hope is that Christians are the happiest people in the world because we have found the only lasting, ultimate, true being that can bring eternal satisfaction and happiness.

When I feel gratitude I may cry, when I am afraid I may tremble. When I am comforted I feel safe and at peace.

Emotions do not run the train, but to not show remorse at the death of close loved ones or your parents—you would probably be deemed callous and insensitive.

Physical sensations aren’t essential, but there does seem to be a connection between the feelings we feel in our soul and the sensations or emotions of our bodies.

We give emotions to peace, fear, gratitude, hope, and grief.

We have joy and that joy could get emotionally expressed in happiness. Not essential, but your happiness can become a thermometer or indicator of how much joy you truly have and how much you are truly treasuring Christ above everything else in this world.

CS Lewis says, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us,like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at sea. We are far to easily pleased.” (weight of glory, pg1 )




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