The Bible says we are to find our happiness (our delight, our joy, our gladness) in God…who He is, what He has done, what He promises, and all He provides. But when we seek that happiness, we sometimes find people (even “theologians”) who quickly explain that the happiness we are seeking is not Biblical.
There is considerable confusion about the words “joy” and “happiness” among Christians. Some believe you should be “joyful” (a deep emotion and response to God) but not “happy” (considered a more shallow, frivolous emotion and response to circumstances). Is joy superior to happiness?
In the Bible, joy, happiness, gladness, and merriment are often interchangeable based on the original language (Hebrew, Greek) and are often mistranslated “blessed”. Being happy and being joyful can be the same experience. Both happiness and joy are found in God through Christ by the Holy Spirit.
The angel announced in Luke 2:10: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day…” (The Greek word for great is megas: This good news is megajoy…the best news ever.)
Another example is found in 2 Chronicles 15:15 (GNT) – “All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant [with God] with all their heart. They took delight in worshiping the Lord, and He accepted them and gave them peace on every side.”
You would be shocked if I told you who wrote the following erroneous, unbiblical statement in a very well-known and highly recommended book: “It is an insult to use the word happiness in connection with Jesus Christ.” Such careless understanding of the original language and word meanings misleads people.
Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher, said, “Persons need not and ought not to set any bounds to their spiritual and gracious appetites. Rather, they ought to be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame their desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasure.”
There is such a thing as worldly “joy”: “There is pleasure in sin for a season…” (Hebrews 11:25) but the way of death results from it. On the other hand, spiritual joy and happiness found in Psalm 1 is the offer God makes to His people.
A.W. Tozer: “…For a long time it has been drummed into us that if we are happy, God is worried about us. We believe He’s never quite pleased if we are happy. But the strict, true teaching of the Word is that God takes pleasure in the pleasure of His people, provided His people take pleasure in God.”
The first principle of happiness: As we obey God, happiness belongs to the believer. (Proverbs 28:14)
Applying the truth of happiness and joy to our lives:
- Solomon chose joy and wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:12 – “I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves [in God] as long as we can.”
- God grants us the resources for joy (2 Peter 1:2-4) and gives us freedom to choose how we will think and act (Romans 12:2).
- Happy people practice and act upon their happiness. Paul, speaking of spiritual gifts, wrote: “…let us use them…the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8)
- Philippians 4:8 says to “fix your thoughts…” which means we must train our brains toward happiness and joy.
- Practice deliberate, Biblical thinking rooted in the scriptures and careful interpretation of the scriptures as opposed to the opinions of men.
Will you choose, practice and claim for God’s glory your God-provided happiness and joy, or will you continue to seek a “deep joy” and miss the “abundant happiness” that is so closely related?
Author RANDY ALCORN is credited with much of the material above. I recommend his book Happiness published by LifeWay Publishing.