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  • Writer's pictureLES HENSON

Differentiating Joy and Happiness

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Les Henson

The Bible speaks of and focuses on joy rather than happiness. Happiness is short-lived and fleeting, while joy is much more profound and lasting. Happiness comes and goes while joy is a more stable aspect of one’s inner being. Many people seek after happiness. Yet few find it. Joy is bestowed upon those who live meaningful lives, more as a gift than that which is sought. It is the fruit of a virtuous life rather than that, which is sought, grasped or demanded. Joy withstands all that life throws at us, while happiness fades at the first inkling of difficulty. Let us seek after God vigorously and love, those we encounter with fervour then maybe we will be drawn closer to the source of all joy.

As Elise M. Boulding articulates, “. . . the real difference between happiness and joy is that one is grounded in this world, the other in eternity. Happiness cannot encompass suffering and evil. Joy can. Happiness depends on the present. Joy leaps into the future and triumphantly creates a new present out of it.” Likewise, Walter Wangerin makes a similar point when he writes, ”The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope—and the hope that becomes our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend up on it) disappoint us.”

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