Happiness -v- Joy


According to the dictionary, happiness and joy are two words for the same thing. I’ve heard many people try to explain the differences between the two concepts, but in English I can’t find any real justification for this (although this might be different in other languages).

Be joyful always
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (Good News Bible)

In the Bible God instructs His people repeatedly to ‘Be Joyful’ or to ‘Rejoice’ and the Psalms continually urge us to shout for joy.

I am going to assume that God isn’t actually telling anyone to lie to themselves or others about how they feel so at first glance this looks like it makes no sense.

I wonder if it is related to scale. What I mean is that there are various sources of happiness in life:

  • happiness that comes from events; from happenings
  • happiness from longer-term things, like children, family, more permanent life circumstances, etc
  • happiness from things that are eternal and unchanging

Maybe what we focus on will determine what sort of joy we feel and how long it is likely to last.

Without an eternal perspective, it would be impossible to seriously consider the words of James when he says

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
– James 1:2 (NKJV)

Life throws stuff at me and I have no control over that, but I can control what I do with that stuff once it arrives. I can choose to look at the circumstances and allow people to have control over my joy; or I can choose to look at the much bigger picture and my feelings can be based on something that never changes.

And I smile at the thought of God’s joy when it’s all over:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Saviour,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
– Jude 1:24-25 (NKJV)


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