Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

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The Real Difference Between Happiness and Joy

Joy that comes from the Lord is a hope built on Him

Published on: Jul 27, 2008

It has been said by many radio preachers and pulpiteers that happiness is based upon what happens whereas joy comes from the Lord. What they say is true but insufficient. We do not want our moods based upon what what happens for sure. We do have happiness when good things occur. When the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem, David danced with joy before the Lord (2 Sam 6:14) because he was happy, not because of the “mystical” joy of the Lord. His persecution by Saul was over and he was entering his reign as the King of Israel.

But circumstances do change and if we live by what happens, then surely our happiness will depart when the going gets rough. So living by joy is clearly the better way to live. However, the way it is told by the preachers and pastors they make it seem like it is some mystical experience where God Himself fills us with joy. It is true that God is joyous within us, and when we die to self we are able to experience His joy when He lives through us. But that does not explain the mechanics of how this happens. So for many of us, we are waiting for that experience to happen in some inexplicable way.

We often look to Galatians 5:22 which says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …” to justify this view. But what does “the fruit of the Spirit” really mean? Does it mean then that we are experiencing his love, joy and peace? If that were so, then it would be better worded “the experience of the Spirit,” not fruit. Fruit is the product of the Spirit, not the Spirit itself. I think this passage is better understood to mean the work of the Spirit in our lives produces love, joy and peace.

Emotions, which joy is, is the expression of the spirit, but is not the spirit itself. Emotions are part of our souls. The spirit is the essence of the thing, whereas the soul is the expression. I am convinced that faith, love and hope are spiritual entities that have emotional expressions in our souls. Love is the essence of God who expresses His essence with love. Faith is the essence of peace, which is the emotional expression of faith. Hope is the essence of joy, and joy is the expression of hope.

And hope is the basis of both happiness and joy. King David was happy because his hope was fulfilled in being established as the King of Israel. The proverb says:

Prov 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (NIV)

We see the opposite of happiness and joy is discouragement. But when the longing is fulfilled the tree of life is the happiness of hope fulfilled. Discouragement is the enemy’s number one tool against the saints. He brings discouragement by causing page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>disastrous or undesirable circumstances to happen. If one’s hope is based upon circumstances, then one never gets out of the cycle of happiness or discouragement.

So how does hope bring joy so we remain joyful when circumstances are undesirable? Father Abraham is our example. He was given the promise that Sarah would bear a child from God. The child did not come when he expected it. Expectation is hope. His hope had been deferred as in Proverbs 13:12. But Romans 4:18 tells us:

Who [Abraham] against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. (Rom 4:18 KJV)

Even though his circumstances would have brought discouragement if he lived by happiness, he was not discouraged. Why? Because he held fast to his belief that God would fulfill His promise to him. His faith in God’s promise was acted upon in that:

he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: (Rom 4:19 KJV)

He knew the condition of his and Sarah’s bodies. Yet he did not look at that circumstance, and continued to believe that God could still give them a child, even in their old age. Abraham had the child, yet he never saw the true fulfillment of the promise that he would be a father of many nations. That was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Yet, I have no doubt, that Abraham continued to believe all that God promised, knowing that God would fulfill His promise in His own way.

So here, then, is the real difference between happiness and joy. Both are expressions of hope fulfilled. Happiness if fulfilment by circumstance, but joy is fulfilment by faith. Hope plus faith in God equals joy. And this is the fruit of the Spirit, for it is the Spirit’s work to build our faith in the promises of God so that we may abide in joy while the circumstances are not fulfilled. So if you want to walk in the joy of the Lord, you have to trust God in all your circumstances.

Comments from Original Post

Submitted on 2008/07/27

Excellent Blog. Well said. I especially like the last paragraph that sums it up…”So here, then, is the real difference between happiness and joy. Both are expressions of hope fulfilled. Happiness if fulfilment by circumstance, but joy is fulfilment by faith. Hope plus faith in God equals joy.”

As well, I agree with your comments in “The God Journey” forum. I sometimes find that people peeter pretty close, or even state they believe in Universalism — of not needing to put their faith in Christ – for salvation. I think it’s important to remain strong in the fact that yes, God does love every single human being, believing and non-believing. Yet, He gave us choice to choose His love or not.

You nailed it on the head when you said, “Jesus gave the whole world salvation, for he crucified Adam and replaced him with the new man. But the gift, of course, has to be accepted for the benefit of salvation to be experienced. So if they are saying that all the world is saved, and no one will perish, then I reject that point. I don’t think it is religion that causes this “us and them” attitude, but pride. Pride is the perversion of self awareness that God wants us to have as souls.”

~Amy 🙂

Submitted on 2008/07/27

Thanks Amy. I genuinely want to help the family of God in practical ways. This is just one topic that has been given a “mystical” quality, and I think it is simply because the preachers have not through what this means in practical terms.

As for the God Journey forum discussion [if the reader wants to read it:, I don’t think any one in that conversation leans towards universalism, but in discussions with other free believers, I see that tendency, too, which is why I made that point. Thanks again for the feedback.

2 to “The Real Difference Between Happiness and Joy”

  1. Barbara Townsend says:

    Please could you tell me how I can get a copy of this picture. I love it and would like to give it to a friend.

  2. Alexander says:

    It is called, “Abba Father”, by Christine Kerrick drawn in 1996.

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