“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him.” Psalm 128:1
Some people use the words happiness, contentment and joy interchangeably. In Biblical terms they are all similar, but they mean something slightly different. Happiness is often synonymous with being blessed or delighted. Contentment is a feeling or showing of satisfaction with what you have been given. Joy is unique — it is a happy emotion or natural outcome of your faith and in knowing and serving God. The word joy is often synonymous with rejoice in the Bible. Let’s examine all three terms in light of scripture.
Some people wonder if the word happy is even in the Bible. Words for happiness are used about 30 times in the Bible. Words for happiness in the Bible are e’sher (Hebrew) and maka’rios (Greek). The translation for these words means to be blessed. The world’s definition of happiness is often described as a fleeting feeling of euphoria, pleasure, satisfaction or good fortune–momentary gratification. Because happiness is short lived, you have to seek after it again, and again and again to feel fulfilled. As a Christian “our happy meal” should come from God’s Word, the Bible.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:3-12
“Happy is the man that finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding.” Proverbs 3:13
“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” Proverbs 29:18
“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
“For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield.” Psalm 5:12
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3
Contentment is happiness that comes from what is yours. In Greek the word for contentment is autarkeia which means a perfect condition of life in which we don’t need help or support. Contentment can come from where we stand in relationship to God or where we stand in relationship to our worldly provisions. As a Christian, I hope you find contentment in the former rather than the latter source! Elisabeth Elliot once says that contentment cannot dwell with anger and self pity. I think it’s true to say that whenever we harbor evil thoughts, we cannot feel content. We gain much more from contentment that has God as its source than from material possessions or status. One online sermon put it best: “Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have. “
“Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Philippians 4:11-12
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
“And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
“So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” 1 Corinthians 7:24
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Many people wonder how joy differs from happiness. While words for happiness are used 30 times in the Bible, words for joy are used more than 300 times! The Greek word for joy is “chara,” which means to be exceedingly glad. Joy comes from our faith and relationship with God, as well as our obedience to Him. It is not dependent upon our circumstances. It comes from deep within us, whereas happiness is dependent upon things outside of us. As pastor Greg Laurie puts it, joy is “self-contained.” Just study the life of the apostle Paul and you will find evidence of joy even in the midst of his dire circumstances, pain, suffering and threat of losing his life. I am sure that even Jesus experienced joy carrying out God’s will as he suffered and died upon the cross.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
“I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” 2 Corinithians 7:4
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Psalm 4:7
“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” Psalm 105:3
“The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 29:19
“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’” Luke 2:10
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live.” Ecclesiastes 3:12
There is a common thread that weaves throughout these three terms: true happiness contentment and joy can only be found in the Lord! Where do you turn when you are unhappy, discontented or full of sorrow? Do you look around at your circumstances? Do you turn to your stuff? Do you try to drown out your pain with drugs, alcohol, food or something else? The only true place our hearts will ever be at peace is when our lives are in tune with God.
At a goodbye party for a job I hated, my supervisor told everyone in the room he will always remember how cheerful I was everyday. I was shocked to hear this because the job itself made me so unhappy. It was because I spent a lot of time in God’s word and in prayer. As the children’s song says, “If you’re happy and you know it then your life will surely show it.” Can others sense the joy of Jesus within you? Surely your inward joy will affect everything you do outward.
Pray This Prayer: Thank you Jesus that you were willing and able to suffer and die on behalf of all mankind in exchange for the joy you experienced in doing the will of Father. Because of your sacrifice and your resurrection, we have hope and can experience happiness, contentment and joy in our lives. Please help me to set my eyes upon you when I am sad and discouraged and help me to point others to you when they are feeling the same way. Deepen my relationship with you so that my joy may be full. Amen.”