Joy, Joy Joy, Down in my Heart. Where? Down in my heart! This tune, keeps ringing in my ears as I prepare for the third Sunday in Advent. This week our “Joy” candle will be lit on the Advent wreath, and we will invite each other to share in the deep love of Christ that brings us inexplicable Joy. Often times, I have heard the argument that there is a difference between joy and happiness, but they are hard to distinguish. Some would say when you really know Jesus, you immediately know joy. Conversely, it is happiness that the world prescribes and it is a temporary emotion. I was happy and joy filled when I came across an article written by Randy Alcorn. He said, it is an “ungrounded and dangerous separation of joy and happiness that has infiltrated the Christian community.” If we are looking for a biblical separation, we will not find one, for joy and happiness are used sometimes interchangeably in scripture.

John Piper writes, ”If you have nice little categories for ‘joy is what Christians have’ and ‘happiness is what the world has,’ you can scrap those when you go to the Bible, because the Bible is indiscriminate in its uses of the language of happiness and joy and contentment and satisfaction.”

Admittedly, I have wrestled with the idea that joy and happiness are somehow different from one another and that joy is better than happiness. In my research on this matter it appears that I have been hornswoggled! Both joy and happiness are emotions that are tied together. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. (Esther 8:16, NIV)
  • I will turn their mourning into joy. . . and bring happiness out of grief. (Jeremiah 31:13, HCSB)
  • Give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy. (Proverbs 23:25, NLT)

My dear friends, both joy and happiness are God given gifts, neither is better than the other. I just cannot find it in the Bible anywhere, that the fruits of the Spirit are numbered in order of importance. And while there may be a short list (9) of gifts, they are not exhaustive. Scripture does say that the greatest commandment is that we love God, and love others. I betcha, if we would ALL love God and love others we would be both happy and joy-filled!

My your Advent continue to be blessed by the gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. (*Note this list is not exhaustive) And if you are happy and you know it Clap your hands, praise God!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. 1Thessalonians 5:16-22

Noblesville’s Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at, on Facebook or at