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What the Bible Says About Joy

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


The Bible says a lot about joy, but not as much about happiness. God ordains both. However, He does speak more about joy than about happiness. The main reason is that happiness is temporarily based on what is happening around you. On the other hand, joy is a lasting emotion going on within you no matter what is happening around you.

So, let's set the record straight by knowing what the Bible says about joy and how some faithful people demonstrate joy in their lives.


Definitions: "Happiness" and "Joy"

According to dictionaries, "happiness" is defined as "an emotional state characterized by feelings of satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment based on what is happening to you, for you, and around you."

According to dictionaries, "joy" is defined as "the emotion of great delight caused by something exceptionally good, satisfying that is greatly valued."

The Bible doesn't contradict those definitions. However, the Bible goes go much deeper by illustrating that while happiness is brought on only by external things, joy is an emotion within that does not depend on things going on around us.

Happiness is an external emotion while joy is an internal emotion.

About Joy

The word "joy" is in the Bible about 650 times in some form as joy, joyful, joyous, and rejoice. In fact, Paul wrote the entire book of Philippians where the theme throughout is joy even though he was in prison at the time. Philippians is known as the "Joy Book" considering Paul mentioned "joy" or a related words about 19 times in that short book of only four chapters.

Notice, we don't sing, "Happiness to the World." Instead, we sing, "Joy to the World."

God's Presence Brings Joy

King David said in Psalm 16:8-9 that his heart, body, and soul were filled with joy. Notice, he did not limit joy and say his mind was filled with joy. In other words, David knew the exact reason he was filled with joy. He knew God was always near, and his joy came from being in God's presence. We, too, can have joy when we realize we can always rely on God within us instead of the circumstances that are going on around us.

Joy is what our heart, body, and soul perceive and not what our mind thinks it should be.

The Holy Spirit Gives Joy

Joy is a fruit given by the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22-23 that when we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, then we will enjoy all the nine fruits of the Spirit which includes joy.

Joy is evident when we are open to the Holy Spirit guiding us into all of our ways. The Holy Spirit will never guide us in ways to harm us. Instead, He guides us in the righteous paths we should go.


We can have joy in spite of our circumstances no matter how bad they seem. People might wonder how Paul could be in prison chained night and day to Roman guards and still be content and filled with joy. Paul knew his circumstances were external while his joy was internal. In other words, what was inside of Paul was greater than what was happening around him.

Paul teaches us an important lesson that we should embrace. He teaches that our outward circumstances do not have to reflect our inner attitude. The imprisoned apostle was full of joy because he knew that no matter what happened to him, Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior was with him.

Too often we allow our circumstances to distract us from having joy. We should purpose for that not to happen to us any longer by using Paul as an example. Paul's joy came from Christ dwelling within him. When we know Christ is present in our lives, there is always joy that cannot be taken away from us.

It is easier to recognize the joy in our lives when we depend on God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit instead of depending on ourselves to bring us great joy. We can do things on our own that will make us happy on a temporary basis. However, we can rely on the Trinity to provide us with everlasting joy.

Finally, remember what Nehemiah told those who helped him rebuild the wall of Jerusalem:

"The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)

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