Joy & Happiness…Are They the Same?

If you’re happy and you know, it clap your hands…if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!  I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart.  As Christians, we’ve been singing about joy and happiness since we were little tykes, using our fingers for little lights and telling the devil to go sit on a tack. I spend a lot of time thinking about these two words and what they mean, even how to get more of both in my life.  Do they even mean the same thing?  Join me today as I discuss what I think makes up the meaning behind these two words and what we have that IS worth singing about.

Food For Thought  If we simply go from dictionary definitions, there’s really not much difference between joy and happiness.  Oxford Dictionaries define happiness as a state of being happy, content, and satisfied.  Synonyms for happiness include pleasure, satisfaction, glee, cheer, and joy.  Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure, delight, jubilation, triumph, and exultation.  It is also referred to as rejoicing.  As you can see, the definitions for these words are quite similar, if not one in the same.  But I think there is a difference, even by looking at the definitions.  Happiness is obviously a feeling of pleasure that one can enjoy, but joy seems to go much deeper.  In fact, most of the words associated with the definition of joy have something to do with triumph.  I’ll talk more about that in a moment.

The word “joy” appears in the KJV Bible 165 times and in the NIV Bible 218 times.  The word “happy” only appears in the KJV Bible 28 times.  I was unable to find the word count for NIV.  Even so, it’s easy to see that joy is referenced considerably more often than the word “happy.”  I believe this has to do with sources of joy and happiness.  Happiness can come and go, while joy is deeply rooted, that is, deeply rooted in our faith and beliefs.  I can be happy because I have a new car, but that new car gets old and has things go wrong, leaving me very unhappy.  As I was growing up, I would be quite happy with my grades and test scores, knowing I was doing well, but have those things carried over into my adulthood?  Not one bit…the roots were not deep and having good grades or being on the honor roll is not a source of joy.  It was fleeting happiness.  My teaching career, while I was once happy with it, became more a source of stress and frustration, and therefore was not a source of joy.  Hiking makes me happy, but trails and vacations come to an end, therefore the feeling is fleeting.  This is not joy I feel, but happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, happiness is a wonderful thing!  I think we should seek out more happiness in this often dark, sad world.  It’s not wrong to want to feel happy.  That is the key word…feel.  Happiness is an emotion, a feeling, that is often dependent on external events or circumstances.  Joy comes to us from a source that does not disappear.  I like to believe that my husband and daughter bring me joy.  They are constants in my life that I know I can depend on always.  Even when we act in such a way that makes the other unhappy, the love is unconditional and deeply rooted.  But even bigger than my family, is the joy that comes from our heavenly Father, and through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Not only is this source constant and deeply rooted, but the gift of the Father through His Son brings us triumph.  If you remember earlier I mentioned triumph was a key piece in the definition of joy.

Here’s the other big difference I’ve found between joy and happiness.  I can fake being happy.  I can put on a smile and say that I am fine.  When someone asks how I am, I can say I’m okay.  I can pretend to be happy for the couple having another baby, while my husband and I battle reproductive issues.  I can pretend to be happy for the ladies succeeding in the business I long to be successful at.  I can tell my husband I’m happy about the “substitute” vacation he’s planned, while being completely disappointed on the inside.  But you cannot fake, or force, joy!  True joy, along with peace, is there in the midst of all sorts of emotions, because what brings us joy doesn’t go away.  So when I sing, I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, it’s real.  I can sing it even when I’m having a bad day, because I am living a triumphant life…triumphant over death and sin and condemnation, because I chose to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior thirty years ago.
And there is no depression, sadness, anxiety, or stress that can take that away from me, hallelujah!

Today’s Scriptures  Where going to do something a little different today for our scripture.  I’m going to challenge you to do a “Joyful June” Bible Verse challenge with me.  For each day in the month of June, check out a Bible verse referencing joy.  Today is the first day of June, so it’s a great day to find some joy!  What you choose to do with the verses is up to you.  You can highlight them, meditate on them, journal them, illustrate them, pray about them, study further…there is no way to mess this up!

For a FREE printable download of the Joyful June Daily Scripture Reading Plan, click this link:  Joyful June

Today’s DIY  I got started right away this morning with my June 1 reading.  I also chose to work with the verse in my Journaling Bible.  Romans 14:17 is an interesting text for someone who writes and blogs about food!  I wanted to share my journal page here, though, because I think it shows a nice contrast in how I do my pages when journaling.  Some days I spend time making an elaborate illustration, while other days I focus more on the words of the text, like I did here.  I love practicing different ways to form letters.  Whatever I’m creating in the journal, the important part is meditating on the words of scripture, what they mean, and how I can apply them to my life.  Enjoy!

Romans 14:17
Bible journaling with ink, colored pencils, gelatos, and stickers.