Monday, October 9, 2017

Joy or Happiness?

Many of us have been taught in church that joy and happiness are different. That teaching says joy is not an emotion but a state of being because we have a relationship with Christ and happiness is a temporary emotion based on something that happened. Simplified -we have been taught joy is a Christian concept and happiness is a worldly concept. But is this correct?

It is an interesting teaching, however, nowhere in the Bible does it make that distinction. In fact, in over 100 verses the Bible lumps them together and uses the two words interchangeably. A few examples are:

Esther 8:16— For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.
Jeremiah 31:13— I will turn their mourning into joy. . . and bring happiness out of grief.

Proverbs 23:25–Give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.

In both the Webster dictionary and bible dictionaries the words joy and happiness are synonyms and are used to mean the same thing. Miriam Webster Dictionary defines joy as:

Definition of joy
The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or 
by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight
A state of happiness or felicity: bliss

Definition of happiness
Good fortune: prosperity
A state of well-being and contentment: joy
A pleasurable or satisfying experience

          Bible Dictionaries - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, define joy and happiness in the same way.
Happiness over an unanticipated or present good. In the Old Testament joy covers a wide range of human experiences—from sexual love (So 1:4), to marriage (Pr 5:18), the birth of children (Psalm113: 9), the gathering of the harvest, military victory (Isa 9:3 ), and drinking wine ( Psalm104:15 ). On the spiritual level it refers to the extreme happiness with which the believer contemplates salvation and the bliss of the afterlife. Unexpected benefits from God are expressed in terms of common experiences. The psalms express the joyous mood of believers as they encounter God. Believers rejoice because God has surrounded them with his steadfast love (32:11) and brought them to salvation (40:16; 64:10). David rejoices that God has delivered him from the hand of his enemies (63:11). Joy is a response to God's word (Psalm 119:14) and his reward to believers (Isa 65:14) and their strength (Ne8: 10).

Happiness [N]
See Joy

In the Bible dictionary the definition of the word happiness is joy. In most of the dictionaries joy is happiness and happiness is joy. They are the same.

         The idea of joy and happiness having two different meanings is a relatively new concept in church history, a modern Christian idea. Certainly the early church fathers used the words interchangeable.

         We should not teach believers to only pursue joy and not happiness. Some of the best verses describing joy use the word happiness.

If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. Deuteronomy 24:5                   
 (By the way, wives, isn’t this a great verse?!)

 When talking about the announcement of Jesus’ birth:
You will have joy and happiness, and many will rejoice at his birth. Luke 1:14


Let’s take back the word happiness, and stop deeming it unbiblical.

To have joy in our journey, know that it includes being happy as well!



  1. This is really good. While I do believe that joy is a much deeper state of being, one that withstand any trial, I also believe the two go hand in hand so often. I really enjoyed your perspective on this! I want to be happy and full of JOY!

  2. Please tell me you have read The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee! Yes... I want both Happiness AND Joy!

    1. No, but I did read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin a few years ago. --I will look up The Happiness Dare --it sounds like I need to get it.

  3. I have a lot of lousy days yet filled with JOY.

  4. This is a lovely meditation for an early, rainy morning. Thank you for sharing.