Did you ever stop to consider the difference between joy and happiness? Or even realize that there was a difference at all? Well it turns out, there’s actually a pretty important distinction that can have a big impact on how we live our lives. It has to do with what they are based on. Happy means to be joyous based on circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is:
…based on the Word [of God], based on your relationship with Him, and based on the fact that you’ve got a future that’s going to be with Him forever. Therefore, you can always be in joy, despite circumstances around you. (excerpt from Fellowshipping With the Holy Spirit, by Dr. Chester C. Pipkin, Jr.).
In other words, happiness is subject to change depending on external circumstances, while joy is not! That’s because external circumstances can’t change God, His Word, our relationship with Him, or our future with Him. Isn’t that amazing? We can hold onto the joy of the Lord, even when circumstances are tough, because of the future and hope that Jesus promises. Happiness can come and go, but that joy is steadfast. One clear example from scripture tells about early Christians in the Macedonian churches:
They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2 NLT)
If we make the mistake of chasing happiness, and the circumstances that we think will sustain it, we will inevitably fall into selfishness and self-pleasing in our never-ending pursuit. We’ll only want to do the things we enjoy, and yet it still won’t be enough to always make us happy.
When we seek to please God, and live according to His Word, God blesses our lives here on this earth for sure, but on top of that, we can have that incredible, unshakable joy even when we go through trials and hard times. That’s why it’s so important that we recognize this distinction, and resist the temptation to pursue happiness instead of the true joy that’s found in God.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NLT)