What The Bible Says About Happiness And Joy

The words happiness and joy are dotted frequently throughout the Bible. I would venture to say that most of us have heard there is a difference between Biblical joy and happiness. So, since I like to look to the Bible for advice about such things, I decided to do a little fun research on the words.

The land of the internet tells me that this is a much-debated question. 

Some say happiness is external and is a sign of joy, or that happiness is something the world gives us, and joy is a deep emotion that comes only from the Lord. Others say that in many Bible translations, the two words are used interchangeably. Just as we use many different words for the feelings of joy or happiness, the languages of the Bible do also. 

What the Bible says about happiness and joy

Is There A Difference Between Joy And Happiness?

I was tempted at this point to turn around and choose another subject since I am far from a Bible language scholar. But I decided to be adventurous and plow on through.

In Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit verse, Strongs NIV Exhaustive Concordance, translates the word ‘joy’ to the Greek word chara, and uses these words and phrases to describe the meaning: joy; rejoicing; happiness; gladness; filled with or full of joy; happiness, glad; happy; overjoyed; pleasant.

Instead of debating the differences and isolating these words in individual use, let’s look at them collectively in active use in the Scriptures. We won’t be digging deeply into the technical differences between the two words but instead will focus on the uses of these words and their similarities in the Scriptures. 

When God’s Happiness Is Our Happiness (How To Have Joy And Happiness)

Christians would most likely agree that the state of well-being we experience as children of God far surpasses the joy of a new car. Both are good things, but the lasting joy of being in Christ Jesus, forgiven and saved from sin, far outweighs the fleeting “new car” smell and feel.

When Jesus Christ comes to life in us, we experience a fullness of joy that is hard to describe. This joy of the Lord goes with us every day, but our emotions still soar and dip over daily matters, both minor and life changing.

Even as we go through life in this fallen world, and must deal with all that it brings to our lives, we still have the everlasting joy of salvation, and we carry with us the hope of the glory of God.

The apostle Paul went about his work of spreading the gospel with a cheerful heart, yet he never forgot the things he did before he entered into the Christian life.

He counted his various trials and hardships as a way to identify with Christ’s sufferings for him. He suffered as a believer for the sake of Christ yet was joyful. He had very little to his name, yet he considered it great gain to be satisfied with what he had.

God’s goodness is all around us, yet we often fail to see or remember that goodness when we allow our emotions to get the better of us. It’s all too easy to forget how to have Christian joy when we are in the midst of distressing circumstances. 

In John 15:11, Jesus says “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete”. This is immediately following His teaching on abiding in Him and bearing fruit, earlier in the chapter, verses 1-8.

If we are not abiding, or clinging to Him, taking our constant nourishment from Him, we will be unfruitful, and will be thrown aside and destroyed. 

So then – it’s either utter destruction (without Him) or it’s true joy (with Him). The choice Is ours. 

Happy and Joyful Scriptures 

These verses are just a few of the many passages in the Bible that contain forms of both the words happy and joyful. (Scriptures are taken from the New Century Version unless otherwise noted)

Sing Jerusalem. Israel, shout for joy! Jerusalem, be happy and rejoice with all your heart. 

Zephaniah 3:14

Lord, you have made me happy by what you have done; I will sing for joy about what your hands have done. 

Psalm 92:4

They will reach Jerusalem with gladness, singing and shouting for joy. They will be happy forever, forever free from sorrow and grief. 

Isaiah 35:10 (GNT)

Then the young women of Israel will be happy and dance, the young men and old men also. I will change their sadness into happiness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sadness. 

Jeremiah 31:

But the righteous are glad and rejoice in his presence; they are happy and shout for joy. 

Psalm 68:3 (GNT)

This first group of verses speak of the people singing songs of joy, dancing, and giving shouts of joy. These are examples of God’s people giving God the praise and the glory He deserves, and has given us the job of doing.

Many of these happy praises were given when the people were in the thick of it, surrouded or freshly rescued from enemies that were all around them. As God’s people, we also can praise like this, because He has rescued us from the enemy of death and hell forever.

Even when we are in distress because of the sins of others, difficult temptations, false teachings, or other signs of this fallen world, we still have our God to praise to the highest heavens for what He has done for us.

You were very happy then, but where is that joy now? I am ready to testify that you would have taken out your eyes and given them to me if that were possible. 

Galatians 4:15 

Your faith makes you offer your lives as a sacrifice in serving God. If I have to offer my own blood with your sacrifice, I will be happy and full of joy with all of you. 

Philippians 2:17

I wrote you a letter for this reason: that when I came to you I would not be made sad by the people who should make me happy. I felt sure of all of you, that you would share my joy. 

2 Corinthians 2:3

The apostle Paul preached, and gathered converts to Christ into churches as he traveled on his missionary journeys. He appointed leaders to continue on in these churches when he moved on. After he left, he encouraged these churches by sending them letters.

The three passages above are excerpts from some of Paul’s letters. He is reminding the Christians of their great joy when they first heard the Good News and became believers.

Some of them were being tempted by false teachers, and many were persecuted for their faith. They needed strong leaders and encouragement to keep the faith and revive their joyful hearts.

He will bring you joy and gladness, and many people will be happy because of his birth. 

Luke 1:14

I tell you the truth, you will cry and be sad, but the world will be happy. You will be sad, but your sadness will become joy. 

John 16:20  

It is the same with you. Now you are sad, but I will see you again and you will be happy, and no one will take away your joy. 

John 16:22

The progression of the above three verses tell us of wonderful reasons to be happy and joyful. From Christs birth announcements, to the news of His death and sacrifice in order to save us from eternal death, to the assurance of being with Him in paradise.

But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. 

1 Peter 4:13

What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and course you as evil bcause you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.

Luke 6:22-23 (NLT)

These last two passages tell of the suffering that we can expect to endure as believers. We are to be happy in the suffering and look forward to His return in glory, and our great reward in heaven.

Take away my sin, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you crushed be happy again. Turn your face from my sins and wipe out all my guilt.

Psalm 51:7-9

This last passage is what we can say no matter what is going on. If we have welcomed Him, He has made our hearts pure. No matter what happened to us to get us to this point, it no longer matters. He no longer sees our sin and has wiped out all of our guilt! Hallelujah!

For more Bible verses on the subject of joy, you can read 20 Scriptures About Joy.

How To Have True Happiness And Joy Despite External Factors

Most of the above verses were written in less than happy external circumstances. But God’s people found joy and happiness in Him no matter what. Often the world tries to tell us that if we have money we will have all that we need. But sadly for many, this is a tragically untrue age-old lie.

If you are conflicted about money or convinced that it is the answer to all of your problems, you may want to read Breaking Free: What The Bible Says About The Love Of Money. If you struggle with contentment in any and every circumstance, Five Secrets To Living A Life Of Contentment may be for you.

The New Testament church was an amazing example of joy in the presence of shockingly difficult situations. They found happiness in the presence of God, no matter what was happening around them.

Their faith was from God and it was tested frequently, even daily. They had even greater joy when they came through the hard times with even stronger attitudes of praise and thankfulness for God’s gift of hope. 

We too, can be just that joyful. Whatever we focus on becomes our world. When our world revolves around God’s goodness, we have nothing to complain about, nothing to worry about, nothing to focus on except the Rock of our salvation, and how we can go about doing His work. 

If the desires of your heart are physical, emotional, or circumstance-based, it’s time to focus on the Good News – the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a better way, sister, that will lead you in the way to true happiness.

The path of this life sometimes feels like it’s going nowhere. If you’re on the true path of life you’ll know it leads to eternal joy and happiness.

The emotions we feel this side of heaven have nothing on what we will celebrate in our souls every single day forever. Not just for hundreds of years, or even thousands, but forever and ever. 

And now, my conclusion on the debate I spoke of in the opening paragraphs?

When we are happy we have joy and when we are joyful we have happiness – I really could not discern the difference, or there is such a fine line that it’s mostly invisible, and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of God’s plan.

Enjoy this timeless song, and remember…”still my soul will sing Your praise unending….ten thousand years and then forevermore!”


What the Bible Says About Happiness And Joy

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