#043: The Downside of Happiness and
the Upside of Joy

In many ways, the winter months ought to be some of our happiest. After all, we have three major holidays one after another: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Joy, Happiness

Yet the data says depression spikes during these months. More crime, more divorces, and more suicides all during our winter months. What’s going on? Why is our happiness index so low during what should be the happiest times of the year?

Dictionary.com defines happiness as “good fortune; pleasure; contentment.” From the very definition, we can see why there is a downside to happiness! It is all experiential—it is based on how we feel depending on the circumstances of our life. When life takes a bad turn, our happiness index plummets lower than a thermometer in Nome, Alaska in January! The downside of happiness is that it is based on man’s view of the world and our place in it.

The upside of joy is that it is not based on happiness. Pastor James McDonald provides a theological definition of joy saying, “Joy is a supernatural delight in the person of God, the purposes of God, and the people of God.” According to the Bible, joy comes from God:

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11 NKJV).

If joy were based on our own efforts we could no more remain full of joy than we could command ourselves to be continuously happy. God says His joy will fill us, His joy will remain in us, and that will bring the fullness of joy to us! Joy in our lives comes from having Jesus Christ in us, and there is no circumstance or trial that comes our way that can take that joy from us!

Paul, writing to the Philippians, exhorts them to rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3:1). The word used for rejoice is the verb form of the word for joy. Rejoicing is the doing part of joy. Paul goes on to warn the Philippians that there are those who will try to rob them of their joy:

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision (Philippians 3:2 NASB).

The dogs that Paul refers to are the false teachers that were prevalent in that day. They opposed the Gospel, teaching that salvation came through works. The evil workers Paul refers to are false apostles disguising themselves as true believers but teaching falsehoods. Finally, the false circumcision refers to those who are circumcised physically, but not in their hearts.

In contrast to those who would rob believers of their joy by turning away from their faith, Paul continues providing three examples of how they should live in order to have the joy of God:

For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3 NRSV).

Paul says believers have the true joy that comes from God when they 1) worship in the Spirit of God, 2) boast in Christ Jesus, and 3) have no confidence in what can be accomplished in the flesh.


The downside of happiness is that it is dependent on circumstances and our emotions. Joy, on the other hand, comes from God and our relationship with Him. As a leader, it is important that you recognize the difference between fleeting feelings of happiness and the true joy of God.

These winter months are the toughest times for your employees who do not know the Lord, and that gives you an opportunity to be a light unto the world as you demonstrate true joy!

Join the Conversation:

As always questions and comments are encouraged! Have you struggled to be happy and maintain your joy in the Lord? What did you do to restore your joy?

Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God


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