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Q: I am confused about the difference between happiness and joy. I know as Christians we are to have joy at all times, but I am not happy about the world we live in and I cannot always rejoice about what is happening. This matter is causing me much distress, could you help me make sense out of my confusion.

A: There are many people who confuse happiness with joy, but they are diversely different. First, joy is the state and happiness the byproduct. Joy comes from an abiding assurance, while happiness is a sense of well-being that is often dependent on the state or circumstances of a matter. Joy is lasting because it is founded on what is immovable, while happiness can prove to be temporary because it depends on the state of euphoria that often swings on the fickle branches of sentiment. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, while much of the happiness that is being promoted today finds its source in fleshly ways and worldly attitudes (Galatians 5:22-23).

      Jesus spoke of joy in relationship to His teachings and promises (John 15:11: 16:22; 1 John 1:4). This shows us that we find our joy in who Jesus is, and in what He said, knowing He never lies and is able to bring a matter to fruition. When we rejoice in relationship to the kingdom of God, in essence we are rejoicing in whom our Lord is and in the blessings that come with having a relationship with Him. As we establish our joy in the Lord, we become anchored to Him as the Rock of ages and then our rejoicing in Him becomes our source of strength, never wavering from that abiding confidence and assurance that anchors us to His immovable character and His everlasting covenant.

      The psalmist was the one who defined happiness in Psalm 144:15, “Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.” When happiness finds its source in real joy (the Lord), it manifests itself in satisfaction and contentment. Remember, happiness is having a sense of well-being and for Christians that means satisfaction and contentment regardless of what is going on around us. As the Apostle Paul stated, we must learn to be content in whatever state we may be, and this only will happen when we define happiness according to God’s perspective and not the world’s idea (Philippians 4:11).

      We are living in precarious times, but we can rejoice that God still reigns. We need to be sober and vigilant as to the times we live in so we can stand in darkness, withstand deception, and continue to stand when the battle becomes intense, but we must not become stoic so that we end up becoming morbid about what is happening. I think the problem we see in some Christian circles is that in order to avoid becoming morbid they become unrealistic and silly, hiding behind a veneer of happiness, while those who are stoic appear to be void of joy as they take on a judgmental and critical spirit.

      As Christians we must walk a fine balance. The Bible is clear that we must walk in the Spirit in order to avoid the traps of the flesh, thereby, avoiding extremes in our lives.

      I hope this answers your question about joy.