What is Joy?
In forming a biblical definition of joy, it is vitally important that we address a common misconception. Often, we hear that joy is different than happiness. We hear that happiness is momentary, while joy is constant. We hear that happiness is attached to the things of this world like the Charlie Brown song about finding your skate key (whatever that is), but joy is centered around God and the things of God. While many of these statements are true, I think we have made this difference so stark that we think joy is good, though we don’t know what it looks like and that happiness is bad. But I think that an examination of the words in the bible would be very confusing if happiness is bad.
Old Testament Words:
There are several words for joy in the Bible but there are four primary ones (Two OT, Two NT) used more than the others and they will serve us in our definition:
- SIMHA: Happiness, gladness, pleasure as the disposition of the whole person.
- SAMHA: Outward expression of joy, to rejoice or delight.
New Testament Words:
- CHARA: Joy, happiness, gladness, the word used in Galatians 5 in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. Pray with joy (Phil. 1:4); Give thanks with joy (Col. 1:11), Receive the word with joy (1 Thess. 1:6); Welcome fellow Christians with joy (Phil. 2:29).
- CHAIRO: To rejoice…
After looking at these words and many sections of Scripture and theology on this idea, I have settled on the following definition of joy: Joy is happy satisfaction in God. The words of Scripture don’t distinguish happiness from joy at all. In fact, the Scripture seems to indicate that they are the same, as long as their object is God. How does that differ from rejoicing? Joy is a state of being, rejoicing is an action flowing from that state of being. Simply put: rejoicing is what someone who is satisfied in God does.