Joy. Happiness. Many people speak of happiness in blasé terms as if it’s something to be achieved, the great wonder of life. Happiness is a state of being that can come and go on a whim, as quickly as a hummingbird can flit from one flower to the next. It doesn’t last unless whatever it is that made us happy (a lover, flowers, books, a beautiful sunset, etc.) lasts. But such things don’t last. Life isn’t perfect. What does a person who is seeking happiness do when life hits him/her from out of nowhere?
Certainly being happy is a good thing. But it is momentary and is typically dependent on something to keep us feeling the emotion.
Joy, on the other hand, is happiness to the nth degree. You can’t experience true joy without being happy, but you can be full of joy without feeling happy.
If you search through the Bible for verses with “joy” in them (I used the New Living Translation and found well over 300 instances of “joy” (https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=joy&qs_version=NLT&limit=500) , one verse after another demonstrates the fact that joy involves some sort of action. Joy is happiness so filling it can’t be contained! I can be happy and not do anything to express my happiness. I can simply FEEL happy. But it is impossible to be full of Joy and only FEEL joy. When Joy is felt, it also includes some ACTION!
Joy involves doing something! Joy is happiness to the degree that it can’t be contained; it must be expressed in some way, with something physical, a physical expression that is visible.
Happiness can be achieved by anyone at any moment in time.
For true joy, though, it can only truly be experienced through God Himself. Joy is such that even in the most trying times of our lives, we can feel joy in Him: 2 Corinthians 6:10—“Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” This joy even in great sorrow cannot be experienced in and of ourselves.
If it were up to me, I would wallow in my sorrow—in my pain. I would curl up in my blanket and just stay there. Life has been too difficult too often. Life has knocked me down and knocked me down hard. I don’t want to get back up—in my own strength, that is.
But through Him, not only does He give me the ability to get back up again, but He also fills me with His joy! He turns my mourning into joy in spite of me and my best efforts to stay depressed. He wants me to be filled with joy: John 15:11, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
I have been happy. Certainly I have. But we do our loved ones a disservice when we wish for their happiness rather than for their lives to be full of joy. If we truly love our children, siblings, friends, and other family members, then our greatest desire will be for them to be filled with the wonderful, abundant joy of the Lord.
It is only in the joy of the Lord that we can truly be happy. J
Dancing. 1 Samuel 18:6
“When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals.”
Shouting. 2 Samuel 6:15
“So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.”
Playing an instrument. Psalm 27:6
“Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.”
Bowing in worship. 2 Chronicles 29:30
“King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the psalms written by David and by Asaph the seer. So they offered joyous praise and bowed down in worship.”
Singing. Psalm 100:2
“Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.”
Praising the Lord so that the very ground shakes. 1 Kings 1:40
“And all the people followed Solomon into Jerusalem, playing flutes and shouting for joy. The celebration was so joyous and noisy that the earth shook with the sound.”
Celebration. 1 Chronicles 12:40
“And people from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali brought food on donkeys, camels, mules, and oxen. Vast supplies of flour, fig cakes, clusters of raisins, wine, olive oil, cattle, sheep, and goats were brought to the celebration. There was great joy throughout the land of Israel.”
Eating. Ecclesiastes 9:7
“So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!”
Feasting and drinking. 1 Chronicles 29:22
“They feasted and drank in the Lord’s presence with great joy that day. And again they crowned David’s son Solomon as their new king. They anointed him before the Lord as their leader, and they anointed Zadok as priest.”
Gift giving. 1 Chronicles 29:17
“I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously.”
Even [loud] weeping. Yes, weeping. Ezra 3:13
“The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.”
Sacrificing. Nehemiah 12:43
“Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.”
Laughter. And even skipping! 1 Chronicles 15:29
“But as the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him.”
Hand clapping. Nahum 3:19
“There is no healing for your wound; your injury is fatal. All who hear of your destruction will clap their hands for joy. Where can anyone be found who has not suffered from your continual cruelty?”
Leaping. Malachi 4:2
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. [Or the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.] And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”
Restoration. Job 33:26
“When he prays to God, he will be accepted. And God will receive him with joy and restore him to good standing.”
Forgiveness. Psalm 32:1
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!”
Salvation. Psalm 51:12
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
Crying (tears). Jeremiah 31:9
“Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble. For I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my oldest child.”
Enthusiasm! Deuteronomy 28:47
“If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received.”
Giving birth. John 16:21
“It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.”
Standing firm. 2 Corinthians 1:24
“But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.”
Spiritual growth. Philippians 1:25
“Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith.”
Acceptance. Hebrews 10:34
“You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.”
Sharing. 1 John 1:4
“We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. [Or so that our joy may be complete; some manuscripts read your joy.]”