Some Christians have dismissed happiness as a worldly and self-centered idea that is different from Christian joy and satisfaction. They try to explain Christian joy as something different and spiritual, and they treat happiness as a self-indulgent desire. This is very confusing to our hearts, especially to those who struggle for joy, because it makes us feel criticized for some of our legitimate efforts to be happy. And yet we cannot get away from them. As Christian philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal famously said: "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end." (Pensées, #425).
This has been one of my first priorities in writing a blog, and I've tackled the search for joy a number of times from the very early posts to If You Struggle With Joy You're Not Alone and a string of posts here from 2013 on C.S. Lewis (including Don't Let Being Unhappy Make You Feel Guilty).
But for the present, I just encourage you to read Randy Alcorn's post. Here's a preview:
Joy is something entirely different from happiness. Joy, in the Biblical context, is not an emotion. . . . There is a big difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is an emotion and temporary; joy is an attitude of the heart.
- For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. (Esther 8:16, NIV)
- I will turn their mourning into joy. . . and bring happiness out of grief. (Jeremiah 31:13, HCSB)
- Give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy. (Proverbs 23:25, NLT)