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Joy vs. Happiness in Suffering

Written by Kelly Alexander on

Sometimes we confuse happiness and joy. When I say “happiness,” l mean that giddy feeling of cheerfulness that is noticeable at a celebration. Joy, on the other hand, is a fruit of the Spirit characterized by a deep, abiding, and ultimate sense of well-being that the suffering of this world cannot touch.

It’s no secret that we as believers will suffer in this world. And as Pastor Mark explained in his sermon, some things in this sin-cursed world do produce feelings of fear and anxiety. The question is, “How should a believer respond in the midst of suffering when these feelings come?” Scripture gives us unmovable truths where our souls should be anchored. Sometimes our fear and anxiety increase because we have anchored our lives on temporary things and/or we have interchanged the words “joy” and “happiness.” We have not fully grasped joy vs. happiness.

If we think we are supposed to be “happy” all the time, then we will either fake it or think we are failures because we cannot be “happy” in our suffering. Both are very likely to produce more fear and anxiety.

Anchoring Truths About God

We can also create a dynamic of fear and anxiety when we build our life on things that were never meant to hold the weight of our entire life and joy—things like our jobs, children, spouse, friends, or family. These things are important, but if we build our lives on them and they are shaken or taken, our life can fall apart. Our joy (Ps. 94:19; Prov. 10:28; Rom. 15:13; 1 Pet. 1:8-9; James 1:2-3) comes from believing the truths of God’s Word. Imagine these as pillars holding up your life.

  • God is who he says he is
  • I am who God says I am
  • I have the Holy Spirit in me
  • I am in Christ
  • All that the gospel accomplished

When pain and suffering come, you will hurt, lament, and feel sorrow, but your foundational joy in these truths cannot be taken. These truths are what give believers the ability to say, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good,” in the face of devastating loss and suffering.

Strength For the Battle of Joy vs. Happiness

This world holds many wonderful things yet we are clearly told that we are in a battle and that we will suffer in this world. (See Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 1-8:15; 1 Pet.; James 1:2-4). We should remind ourselves of these eternal truths before, during, and after our suffering. (See Ps. 1:1-.3, 19:14; 104:34; 119; Phil. 4:1-9.)

Ask other brothers and sisters in Christ to remind you of these truths. If you are tempted to pull back from things of God and his people, resist. Do not let yourself go the way of your flesh but instead go the way of the Spirit (Rom. 6-12). Ask yourself, “Have I saturated my soul with the truths of God’s Word so that my joy is in him and cannot be taken?

Kelly Alexander

Kelly serves College Park Church as the Assistant Director of Soul Care. She is passionate about counseling and teaching others to counsel using the Word of God. Kelly enjoys spending time with her husband and grandchildren.

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