Happiness or Joy? – I’ll take both!


I don’t want to be happy.  I want to be joyful.


Happy to be happy, but I prefer to be filled with joy.  Do I have to make a choice, and is there any difference between the two?


Happiness has become a goal that allows all sorts of fouls into the back of the net – no red cards, no penalties ensuing.  On the contrary.  We vigorously applaud the goal of happiness (as an aside, if you flip the ‘a’ and ‘o’ you have gaol), and we insist that it is a fundamental human right, or should be enshrined as one.


The difference is that happiness isn’t, nor ever should be, our goal.  Aside from being completely illusive it is an outcome, a result of, a serendipity.  And when we make goals of outcomes we have made gods of chance, and ‘gods’ always turn into demons.


One man who knows more about the futility of happiness being the reason for ‘being’ is Victor Frankl.  He survived the concentration camps of World War Two, that saw off almost his entire family, his wife included.  He soon discovered, if he didn’t already know it, that happiness was a commodity of great rarity in those brutal camps, and hardly something that you could hope for much less work towards.  Simple pleasures were no longer simple much less pleasurably.  Eating and drinking became purely pragmatic, hardly a daily delight.  All the things we take for granted and derive some pleasure from were taken from them, eventually life itself, for most of them.


He maintained that happiness is something that ‘ensues from’ circumstances, circumstances they soon were deprived of, utterly.  To search for happiness was futile but to search for meaning could lead to happiness.


Joy on the other hand has as little to do with circumstance as happiness is entirely dependant on it.  It was at the worst of times that Jesus started talking about joy to his disciples.  He told them he was leaving them with his joy and peace, and in the next breathe told them that as long as they lived in this world they would have tribulations.


The clear message, lived out by him, and those who believe in him, is that joy isn’t reliant upon external stimulation.  It is a gift of the Spirit of God and both goes with us and is a promise to us.  “Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame.”


It is deep in that it springs up from within but not so deep as to remain stubbornly subterranean.  It expresses itself when our circumstances are favourable and losses no zest when they aren’t.

It has sustaining power, unlike happiness, which is as fickle as an English summer.


Now that is what I would like.  And I’m sure you would to?  Not  the summer, the joy.  Although a summer would be nice, as well.


I don’t want to be happy – I want to be joyful.


(Don’t I want happiness?  Don’t be daft, of course I do)


About simondmcintyre

Husband, Father, Grandfather, Minister, Company Director, Writer, Leader of C3 London. Director C3 Europe. View all posts by simondmcintyre

4 responses to “Happiness or Joy? – I’ll take both!

  • Richard

    Great thoughts well expressed.

  • Emma

    Pastor Simon! Did you read that article about victor frankl? It was called “there’s more to life than being happy”. I wrote a blog about that, and also about an article called “joy” by zadie smith, but I didn’t post it, because I wast sure where the joy of the Lord fit! I enjoyed this post so much, and will always enjoy your sense of humour.

    One day maybe I’ll be at c3 London!

  • Fancy

    Was it not for the joy “set before” him that he endured the pain? He endured pain, did not experience joy at the time but looked to it as something to attained in the future. James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials….

    In the western world we are not very good at enduring trials, we see them as something negative that gets in the way of our joy. We often think, and hear it preached, that if we are not experiencing joy at all times then something is wrong with our life. Are we living our “best life”? On the contrary, the bible teaches us that we should consider it all joy when we encounter trials. Do trials = joy to us? Not generally!

    1 Corinthians 13:13 sums it up nicely. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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