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Joy and Happiness


The difference between joy and happiness is especially prominent in the Biblical context.

Happiness is often associated with positive emotions and a sense of well-being that mainly stems from external favorable circumstances. It’s a short, positive response to something amazing, due to external factors. For example, it is the feeling one gets right after passing a test or receiving a birthday gift.

Joy is characterized as a profound, inner contentment stemming from the recognition of Christ’s beauty and wonders through faith. It is the outcome of something magnificent and is deeply anchored in the essence of God. Joy provides a supernatural support to our souls during times of distress, unfairness, and grief. It is resilient to external fluctuations and persists even during life’s harshest trials. The story of Job best exemplifies Biblical joy. Despite losing all his worldly possessions, Job’s faith in God remained unshaken.

To summarize, happiness is temporary and influenced by external circumstances, but joy is everlasting and based on faith and God’s character. As opposed to happiness, which is temporary, external, and mundane, joy is perpetual, internal, selfless, and heavenly. According to the Church’s tradition, joy is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit (CCC-1832).

In the parable of the talents, the employer was delighted at the two employees’ excellence in their work. Pleased with the results of their output, he invited them to join in his joy. Even while going through distress, Jesus and his followers experienced joy. While advising his disciples on keeping his commandments and remaining in his love, Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). Despite harsh persecution, Paul rejoiced in the Lord and spread the gospel (Phil 1:18). Besides providing contentment in the trials of this world, Jesus grants absolute joy in eternity. He compared the joy in heaven to a banquet. Jesus foretold, “I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 8:11).

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