Happiness and joy are often lumped together when describing the emotions of pleasure and satisfaction. But happiness seems a very fleeting emotion. We might feel happy one moment but lose that happiness when something inconvenient, uncomfortable, or downright sad happens the next moment. Biblically speaking, happiness is talked about far less than its counterpart joy (joy is even one of the Fruits of the Spirit!).
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians explains his deep joy despite his imprisonment and suffering. The words “joy” and “rejoice” are used a combined eleven times across four chapters. Philippians is a letter teeming with joy! It’s in Philippians that Paul tells the church his “secret” to being content or satisfied in all circumstances, “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
The apostle knew that he could be content, and therefore joyful, in all things because of the Lord who gave him the strength to endure. His joy was rooted in the character and goodness of God. And because Scripture proclaims that the goodness, kindness, and steadfast love of God endures forever, joy that is rooted in God’s goodness and steadfast love is never-ending as well.
That is why joy is so much more intense than happiness. One theologian put it this way, “happiness is a river and inch deep and a mile wide. Joy is a river a mile deep and a mile wide.” Happiness and joy may share similarities, but joy is much deeper. As Paul demonstrates in Philippians, joy does not require everything to be sunshine and roses. Joy can be found even in pain and suffering.
Certainly, joy does not approve of bad circumstances. Joy does not demand a happy mask to be placed over sobbing faces. Rather, joy is the assurance that even though our circumstances are less than ideal, God is in control of this too and he is working for our benefit. Simply put, Joy is resting in the knowledge that God will take care of the details. Whatever our situation or circumstance, may we all seek the joy that God has placed in our lives for us to find.