Joyful over Happy

Is happy the same as joyful? Earlier last year I desired to find out. My premise and belief is that no, they are separate things. This was confirmed later last year and almost everyday since.

Sudden surprises, unnecessary messes and hurtful actions flew through the air. In the midst, I wondered where happy went. Was it possible to be joyful when not happy? The answer I found was yes. I can be joyful while not entirely happy. It’s not always easy but it is a choice. Here’s what I’ve found…

Beginning with the dictionary, the first two definitions listed under happy in the Encarta Dictionary are:

  1. feeling or showing pleasure, contentment, or joy
  2. causing or characterized by pleasure, contentment, or joy

We could safely say happy is feeling or causing joy.  Thus, to be happy we first need to find and feel joy.  So, what then is the definition of joy? The same dictionary defines joy as:

  •  feelings of great happiness or pleasure, especially of an elevated or spiritual kind. 

Joy is an elevated form of happy. It is spiritual and I believe comes from God. This joy from the Holy Spirit within all believers gives us our faith and soul wellness.

So there is the literal confirmation: happy is not the same as joyful.

Anyone who has read the Bible has probably come to this same conclusion. Happy is an expression of the joy we have within us. Our joy makes us feel happy. Or, it sparks us to share our joy which contributes to someone else’s happiness. But it all begins with our inner joy, which stems from God.

But how can we find joy when not happy?

The differences between happy and joy are distinct.

  • Happy is a feeling; joy is a gift.
  • Happy is fleeting; joy is eternal.
  • Happy is influenced by situations and others; joy is influenced only by God.
  • Happy looks at the world; joy looks only at God.
  • Happy is an external expression; joy is an internal state of being.
  • Happy bubbles excitement; joy exudes peace.

David wrote about his joy in the Lord in Psalm 16:11 (NLT):

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

My joy comes from God’s deep, abiding and eternal presence within me. Because of this joy, my perspective and attitude about wellness and life shift dramatically. In the middle of this life many things, people, and situations do not make me happy. I cannot always control what happens.  But I can still be joyful. In the midst of crisis, unwanted situations, pain, hurt or sorrow, I can be joyful in Jesus. Therein lies the difference.

We may not always be happy, but we can always be joyful.[tweetthis]We may not always be happy, but we can always be #joyful #FindingJoy #FollowHisFootprints[/tweetthis]

This constant state of joy is a grounding force. It whispers confidence into moments of uncertainty. It injects peace into grief. It envelopes love around hurt and allows for healing. This is joy.

This is what is available to all of us when we seek God above ourselves. When we let go and let God guide us, we receive His grace, joy, and peace. This. This is why joy is so much deeper and different than happy.

Are you happy, joyful or both? Can or have you ever been joyful in the midst of uncertainty, anxiety or grief? Do you have an abiding peace within you?

Being joyful while not necessarily happy seems unnatural. Trust me, it’s not entirely a natural response for me, either. But while seeking happiness, I found my joy in Him.

Try it. Don’t just desire to be happy. Seek God’s joy living within you. Choose joyful over happy. Pick the eternal over the temporal. Seek a state of being over a feeling. Accept His grace and find your joy.

(Portions of this post were published here on the blog previously)

Linking words with Alisa & the #Salt&Light ladies  and Crystal at #HeartEncouragement




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12 thoughts on “Joyful over Happy”

  1. Hi, Jill! I love your list of the differences between happiness and joy. I needed to read this today. This line jumped at me, “This constant state of joy is a grounding force. It whispers confidence into moments of uncertainty.” God has been walking me through a season where (seemingly) everything and everyone around me is uncertain—but He is faithful. The joy has been a needed element I didn’t know was missing. Thanks so much for speaking words of life.

    • Thanks Kelly, it’s a needs reminder for me each day as well. Joy is a gift we chose to accept no matter our circumstances. Thanks for stopping by today!

  2. “It all begins with our inner joy, which stems from God.” Amen, Jill! Thank you for the reminder that joy is a choice. Psalm 16:11 is why I always have joy because I always have Jesus!

  3. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS! I am all about God’s joy through our struggles. I love your list of differences and took a picture to keep on my phone. At this time I am not happy at all about my present health situation but I am so joyful to be doing this with my King.

    Go Make Joy Contagious!

    • Thanks Desiree for your encouragement! I pray that you will find joy and make it contagious for yourself and all those around you! Go find your joy!

  4. Wow, friend. That list is — inspired. I’ve heard the happy-versus-joyful arguments before, but I really love your take on it, Jill. So thankful for the gift of joy that leads to peace. Love this. Thank you for sharing. ((xoxo))

    • Thanks Brenda! I too am so thankful for His joy and peace even amid the less than happy times. I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement!

  5. It’s so refreshing to read your articles about joy when there’s so much negativity in our world. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts.


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