The Difference Between Joy and Happiness
Having a life goal to make other people happy is awesome indeed. Who doesn’t want to be happy and have others join in that happiness? But what about joy? Is there any difference between happiness and joy? While some writers make happiness and joy far too different, I want to point out one key distinction: the sources of the two seem to be different. Even the secular world recognizes this:
“Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are, and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.”
Rachel Fearnley, secular UK psychologist
The root word in happiness is “hap” – which is often defined as coming about by chance or accident or luck. We hap-pen to be hap-py because of hap-penings! External events suddenly give me an emotional lift.
In the Bible, words translated happy, happiness, or gladness are used 30 times, while the word joy or rejoice is used over 300 times. The two are used together at times (Jer. 31:13), so they have some common elements. You can’t be filled with joy and not experience happiness. They are intricately connected, but somewhat different in source.
th(i)nkful Behavior Brings Joy
Cristiana Witt, a dear friend of mine (pictured with my Elly below), brought this to my attention recently. When we become th(i)nkful – choose to download grace from the Lord to think thanks and express that thanks – there is a wonderful side benefit that happens. We have more joy!!
Being th(i)nkful spots the golden thread of God’s purposes and design weaving through the thicket of even unhappy circumstances and gives us joy (James 1:2). In fact, the Greek word for joy is related to the Greek words for grace and thanks!
Finding My Inward from the Upward
We need to shape our inward identity and emotions by an upward orientation, not outward. If our focus is on people and things outside of us, then that is where we will look for happiness, and we’ll work in never-ending frustration to achieve a succession of happy moments. We need to look up instead.
My husband says, “Every time I look at God, He is smiling and saying ‘just perfect.'” No matter my past, He has reconciled me to Himself. No matter my sins, He loves me and is using even those failures in His plan. No matter my faithlessness, He is faithfully making me into the form of “Jesus in my earthsuit.” No matter my brokenness, He can use all the pieces. No matter my unworthiness, He considers me righteous, calls me His child, a holy one and a priest, and has prepared an inheritance for me. The foundation under my circumstances is just perfect.
But what about my circumstances? Choosing to be th(i)nkful is really about allowing God to have His way with me. No matter my circumstances, it’s orchestrated for my greater good. When I cry “deliver me from these circumstances,” He replies that He sent those circumstance to deliver me from myself.
When I let Him choose my flowers and my fires from the complexities of His infinite mind and unbelievable love, there is a humble acceptance that enables me to think thanks and express that thanks to Him, confidently trusting in His sovereignty. He wouldn’t have my life any other way right now. Living in His presence this way brings me the fullness of joy that He described in Psalm 16:11.
Sputter and Bubble
So as you go through this day, why not set aside some time for thinking and expressing thanks. Finding His fingerprints all over your life will produce joy. All of life’s challenges and sorrows will be over one day and we will finally be with the Lord. Live life full of thanks and joy will bubble up. It may sputter up slowly, but slowly it WILL come. Start now.
It’s not happy people that are thankful. It is thankful people that are happy!