By Joni Eareckson Tada
“But may the righteous be glad and REJOICE before God;
may they be HAPPY and JOYFUL.”
We’re often taught to be careful of the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness, it is said, is an emotion that depends upon what ‘happens.’ Joy by contrast, is supposed to be enduring, stemming deep from within our soul and which is not affected by the circumstances surrounding us.
It’s an appropriate linguistic distinction, I suppose. But I don’t think God had any such hair-splitting in mind. Scripture uses the terms interchangeably along with words like delight, gladness, blessed. There is no scale of relative spiritual values applied to any of these. Happiness is not relegated to fleshly-minded sinners nor joy to heaven-bound saints.
The terms are synonymous in their effect and too difficult to distinguish when we experience either one. Would you, for example, respond to the wedding of your daughter with joy or with happiness? Are you happy that your friend came to know Christ or are you joyful? Is the moment of euphoric delight in worship of Him on Sunday morning just a happenstance or just as much a part of Jesus’ promise regarding our redeemed souls?
To rob joy of its elated twin, happiness, is to deprive our soul of God’s feast. Seek both as part and parcel in all circumstances. When your soul is stirred by a deep contentment, be happy. When a delightful moment strikes that is quite outside yourself, be joyful. Don’t think about which one you are supposed to feel. Accept them both as a gift from a God who is rich in all such emotions.
Lord, I seek the blessing of a joyful heart, the gladness of a happy countenance, and the delight of Your eternal pleasure today.
Copyright © 1998. More Precious Than Silver, Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.