Stop Confusing Joy with Happiness! (7 Sure Signs of Joy in Your Life)

Stasi Eldredge

Defiant Joy
Updated Oct 31, 2018
Stop Confusing Joy with Happiness! (7 Sure Signs of Joy in Your Life)
In the midst of all the suffering in the world, it can feel irresponsible, even frivolous, to have joy. And yet, and still, we are called to it.

Defiant may not be a word we would normally associate with the living God, but it can actually be quite fitting. Defiance means resistance, opposition, noncompliance, disobedience, dissent, and rebellion. And when it comes to things that would destroy our souls, that is exactly the right response.

We are called to resist the lies of the enemy. Like Christian on his pilgrimage, we do not comply with the Vanity Fair offerings of the world. We are instructed not to obey the clamoring of the flesh. We are urged to rebel against sin. By the life of Christ in us, we oppose death and destruction. We dissent by casting our vote against the belief that sorrow and endless suffering win.

Instead we welcome life, love, and the full work of Christ to bring all of His goodness into every aspect of our and His domains. We comply with truth. We obey our God. We respect His authority and His final say. We overcome evil with good. We defy hatred by embracing love.

We choose joy.

1. Joy is what sustains us

In the midst of all the suffering in the world, it can feel irresponsible, even frivolous, to have joy. And yet, and still, we are called to it. Certainly there is a time to grieve. There is a time to mourn. To wail. To sigh. There is a time to know our loss and not have to cheer the teppanyaki chef, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have joy even in that painful knowing. Joy is the heartbeat of the kingdom of God. Joy is what sustains us; it is our strength. We can be resilient. We can be filled with the expectation of good things.

2. Joy is different from happiness

What exactly does it mean, though, to have joy? I think we know instinctively that joy is different from happiness. Both are great. But joy seems higher, doesn’t it? Better somehow. Rooted in more reliable things.

Happiness is circumstantial.

  • I’m happy when I wake up and realize it’s not Monday but Saturday—I have a day off!
  • I’m happy when someone brings me a cup of coffee.
  • I’m happy when I get a birthday card. I’m sad when a vacation is over.
  • I’m sad when I mishandle the heart of a friend.
  • I’m sad when no one remembers my birthday.

I love being happy. But happiness is unpredictable; it feels vulnerable because it is tied to my circumstances. And don’t we all know it. One day you’re up; the next day you’re down. Circumstantial happiness is an emotional roller coaster; it can really take you for a ride. It makes us heartsick in the way rolling seas and careening decks make us seasick.

3. Joy is not dependent on circumstances.

Joy is something else altogether. It feels firmer, richer, less vulnerable somehow. I’m happy when my family goes out for ice cream, but it seems a little overblown to say I was filled with joy because of it. I was joyful at all three of my sons’ weddings. I was filled with joy over the birth of our granddaughters. Joy flooded my heart when a dear friend was cleared of cancer. I don’t think it was merely happiness; the joy felt rooted in the presence of God. His hand was so evident.

4. Joy is not a lot of happiness.

Joy is not happiness on steroids. It is not happiness squared. Every healthy human being has the capacity to feel happiness, but joy is something entirely different, made up of its own unique substance. It doesn’t come with the price of admission. Joy is connected to God and reserved for those who are tapping into His reservoir, who are connected to His life.

5. Joy is rooted in God.

Joy is rooted in God and His kingdom, in the surety of His goodness, His love for us. It is immovable. Unshakable. Joy is available at all times, day and night, because God and His kingdom are always available to us. I’m ready to get off the roller coaster of happiness; I want my heart grounded in the higher place of joy. I bet you do too.


6. Joy is available and possible.

Who among us does not want more joy in our lives? In our work. In our marriages. In our relationships. With our children. In our quiet moments alone. If joy is a fruit of the Spirit (and it is), then we are meant to experience and enjoy it, regardless of our circumstances. Whatever may be swirling around us, the eye of the storm is joy. But how do we get there?

The simple answer is we need to come to know God more deeply. When we do, we can believe and rest in His faithful, immovable, immeasurable love for us in every moment we are in.

7. Joy is the heartbeat of heaven.

Joy is the heartbeat of heaven, the very light that emanates from Jesus’ heart, so as we grow closer in relationship with God, we’ll also grow in joy. We’ll see that He is not spending His moments wringing His hands, as we are sometimes prone to do. He is not braced against the future or overcome by serious hardship. His joy is never up for grabs. Rather, His joy is immovable, just as He is. It is an essential part of His very person.

Meister Eckhart wrote:

Do you want to know what goes on in the heart of the Trinity?

I will tell you.

In the heart of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.

The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit.

The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.

We are born from the laughter of the Trinity. What an amazing thought. As image bearers of the Living God, surely joy is written deep in our very hearts.

Taken from: Defiant Joy: Taking Hold of Hope, Beauty, and Life in a Hurting World by Stasi Eldredge Copyright © 2018 by Stasi Eldredge. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

Stasi Eldredge is a New York Times bestselling author, and her books have sold nearly 3 million copies and changed women's lives all over the world. A teacher and conference speaker, Stasi is the director of the women's ministry at Ransomed Heart and leads Captivating retreats internationally. Her passion is to see lives transformed by the beauty of the gospel. She and her family make their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/AaronAmat