Happiness vs. Joy


Popular Office star, Rainn Wilson, hosts Soul Pancake on Youtube. It’s sort of a Candid Camera in reverse where anyone who encounters Soul Pancake isn’t terrified or embarrassed, but leaves with a smile or a new friend. It’s actually a great channel if you need a pick-me-up.

But in one interview, Wilson talks to rising star Olivia Wilde about her life in a nutshell, and Wilson brings up her recent divorce. Here is her response to the shaky topic, taking a drastic turn from silliness, and suddenly growing preachy.

“The real tragedy is staying in a situation that isn’t actually happy. And I think far too many people feel that the sanctity of marriage and the vows they made are worth living unhappily. And that, I think, is the real tragedy. I think it takes real self-knowledge and bravery to exit a situation, but it is the most honest way to live….It really is a relief to stop pretending you’re perfect.”

It’s no secret that a majority of people today are after one thing and one thing only: happiness.

We tune into shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons because they’re supposedly funny. We read books like God Wants You Happy by Father Jonathan Morris. We avoid arguments with our spouses in order to maintain a false sense of peace. We indulge in candy and chocolate milk every chance we get because it makes us happy. And sadly, like Olivia Wilde, we break our vows and spit on the sanctity of marriage and divorce our spouse so that we can find happiness elsewhere.

Many of us are like Ren from Ren & Stimpy. We think “happy happy happy” is the same as “joy joy joy.”

And the difference? Happiness is temporary pleasure. A warm feeling, a full tummy, a snicker. Joy is an inner peace through the unavoidable storms of life.

Happiness is found in new jobs, funny movies, a glass of wine, and silly friends. But all those fade. Joy is found in God and God alone.

Think of joy as happy’s muscle. Happiness comes and goes like our ability to lift things. Just because we don’t work out doesn’t mean we can’t lift heavy objects., but our endurance is limited. But if we work out, we can lift more weight and go for longer periods of time.

Joy is like that. Except you don’t work out, you pray for it. You ask God to grant you the strength of joy – a peace that remains long after the comedy ends, or the ice cream is gone, or the friend leaves, or the fire in the marriage begins to dwindle.

Pray for strength to hold onto your marriage, to continue to do right by your kids, to remain honest at work. Despite what Olivia Wilde thinks, you’re not pretending you’re perfect by weathering these storms – you’re enduring hardships. And God never promised happiness, but He did promise joy to those who has strength enough to ask.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

15 thoughts on “Happiness vs. Joy

  1. Happiness is an elusive mistress. The more you court her, the more she slips away. More often than not, when we seek to live faithfully to God’s calling, then she wants to hang around us a lot more. But if we chase her, she runs.

  2. Your post makes me a bit worried. If you are suggesting that people within relationships should always stay within them and only pray for help and endure hardships. You truly need to rethink this because you may be telling someone who is within an abusive and violent situation to stay and put themselves and children in danger! Prayers are not always answered the way you are implying here! There are many times that it is the right thing to do to separate from someone who you are married to.
    WE should NEVER judge anyone or the actions that they have taken by assuming they are looking for happiness and are not willing or open to enduring hardships to find true joy!
    Very possibly the hardship the person will endure by making a positive step out of a bad situation is the very one that God himself has led this person to make. This type of thinking is HUMANS attempting to know what is right for others and disobeying what God asks of us. To not Judge one another.
    This is the for the person and God to live through and evaluate, never any other than those two!
    With respect, hope, joy and love, Carmela

    1. Carmela, when a man is abusing his wife in the way that you’re saying, he is not in fear of God-that’s the primary problem. Husbands are to lead there wives as the head of the family (after Christ). Paul tells the Corinthians that if a woman is married to an unbeliever and she herself becomes saved, that he shouldn’t divorce him, that she might be the vessel God use to bring him to repentance. Divorce is not of God, that’s the flat truth. Jesus said to the Pharisees that because of the peoples hardness of heart, Moses made a law of divorcing only if adultery occurs. Even then, Jesus said that when you divorce your wife and marry another, the person that you married becomes an adulterer. As you can see, divorce helps no one in that case. But regarding your abusive relationship scenario, I wouldn’t wish that in anyone, and it certainly is not Godly. I would pray that multiple parties would intervene on that relationship and that the couple would overcome there issues and come closer together. That pleases God. How many times have we cheated on God with our own desires and sins? I know I’ve fallen many times, but He hasn’t divorced me, nor will He because He cannot go back on His character. We hold display some sense of Christ when we persevere against our husband/wives shortcomings. God bless you! 🙂

    2. Carmela, I hope no one would ever advise anyone to remain in an abusive or violent marriage once correct action has been taken against the abuser and retribution, after it has been vigorously sought out, is no longer possible. That’s not what this post is about. The most typical reason people leave their marriages is because they’re not happy, and that’s who I’m addressing. Abuse and adultery are different topics which I didn’t have room to touch on here.

      And I would never judge anyone for anything, as I often make mistakes and find happiness in the wrong places, so this post is just as much directed at myself as it is to anyone else.

      I’m simply pointing out this celebrity’s false view of happiness and joy and warning people against these ideologies that most people (Christians included) have taken up with. The post is simply meant to ask the question: “What are you striving for? Temporary happiness or enduring joy?”

      1. I am sorry. I don’t mean to be critical, I truly think it is sad how our society places celebrities on a pedestal and uses them as examples to prove a point. I was always taught that by pointing a finger at someone else three fingers are left pointing back at you.
        Personal decisions within a marriage and divorce should not be debated by anyone outside of those involved. I completely understand that each religion has their views on the subject, I can wholeheartedly respect that. It is the fact that someone is holding another person’s actions up and attempting to show them as an example of “what not to do”. I truly do not know this person or anything about the situation, I have never even watched the show Office. I probably should not have entered in to this comment. I attempt every day to look with eyes of compassion for others and love others with a heart full of unconditional love toward others. I am sorry if I have offended anyone. With respect, hope, joy and love, Carmela

        1. No offense taken whatsoever. And by no means am I judging this celebrity’s lifestyle or choices, but I realize that her words – which are what I focus on – are like pearls of wisdom to many young people, and I am just pointing out an alternative way of thinking and living.

    3. I actually saw that interview. I use to think Olivia Wilde was one of the most beautiful, and intelligent celebrities. And slowly but surely I lost respect for her, especially after that interview because it shows a great immaturity. She lacks wisdom. Thank you for this Sarabeth, I know you didn’t mean to judge Olivia. For any person who has a good standing relationship with the Lord, it becomes clear to us who is living for happiness and who is living for joy. I agree that a majority of people today, especially U.S. citizens are after happiness. There is great evidence in the fact that we are the most, pleasure seeking, medicated, addicted, divorced, obese people in the world. And I believe it’s also because we have the most lukewarm Christians. I know Carmela means well, but a soft answer turns away wrath. I was abused by my own father for 15 years, I ran away twice and came back home. He turned his life around for God.

  3. An important distinction that many people don’t recognize. Happiness is based on circumstances and joy is a choice. We can be joyful and desperately unhappy at the same time. Good advice.

  4. My mother always taught my siblings and me at a young age that we should strive for God’s joy instead of happiness. It was rather confusing and a bit annoying at times but when I look back, I am thankful for her wisdom.

  5. If I may pose a question to those who have mentioned the promulgation of ideas from celebrities: If you had been through a rough situation and came out of it with your own truth and lessons, wouldn’t you want to share it with others? This isn’t so much about a celebrity knowing so much as a woman who made a comment she believed would help others. I’m certain she knows it won’t resonate with all viewers. How is that any different than your comment? Aren’t you posting your opinions, your experiences, to aid others? Wouldn’t you do the same if you were her, but with a different message?

    Another reminder that I’d add is that marriage means different things to different people. Please don’t expect people to match you or your spiritual interpretation. The only version of marriage whose “sanctity” can be determined is your own.

  6. So true. Getting through difficult times together is more satisfying than if we’d gone separate ways because at times we weren’t “happy.” We both had to stop thinking “me me me” and understand at our core that marriage is “us us us!” Our marriage is not what it was when we exchanged vows. It’s better. Thank God!

  7. Thank you for your post. I was just having this conversation with a friend the other day. In my home, we usually make the difference between happy and healthy to help our kids understand this subject. I guess I think of joy as having a healthy heart and finding peace within.

    We want our children to be happy, but like Timothy said, “Happiness is an elusive mistress.” We try to teach them to take good care of themselves on the inside and out, in body/mind/heart/soul. That way, happiness can come and go easily without taking us on that roller coaster chase to find her. I think eventually, when we stop chasing, she comes along for the ride. Chances are she’ll stick around, too.

    Hopefully, that lesson will follow them into all of their relationships. God knows, I’ve learned this the hard way! But I must say, the hard lessons have been the best opportunities to grow.

    Thank you for following me at Lila as… Jane Do-It-All.
    be well.

  8. Hi!! Thanks for following my blog … I’ve taken a look around your blog and decided to return the favor … I look forward to reading more from you and hope that you continue to feel the same.

    Blessings, Julie:)

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