Why Joy Isn’t Happy or Glad {It’s Even Better}

Joy's not a feeling, but it sure can make us feel safe in life's storms. {Image credit: denyskuvaiev / 123RF Stock Photo}

Joy’s not a feeling, but it sure can make us feel safe in life’s storms. {Image credit: denyskuvaiev / 123RF Stock Photo}

You know you’ve been a bit of a Debbie Downer on your blog when your dad, who reads  your posts — even really wonky ones — texts from across the country: “Seem sad. Need to talk?”

Yes, I have been sad. But that’s OK. Being sad is better than stuffing sad down so deep it comes out as road rage, or worse: talking back to your tween daughter the way she talks to you on “one of those days.”

More on that later…

Today, a friend, client, day-brightener and fellow She Speaks attendee, Alicia Terry, shares her own journey through a situation that could have robbed her joy… but didn’t. She adds a freeing truth to our current joy study here: that joy isn’t happiness — or even gladness — it’s BETTER. 


Journey to Joy, by Alicia Terry

What is joy, really? Laurie posed this powerful question in her August 17 post and it caused me pause for a moment to think. I mean how do you know joy let alone explain it? Is it objective or subjective?

Part of a song we used to sing at church said, “This joy that I have the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away.” Yes, I sang this song and maybe you did too, but was it really our reality? Is it our reality today? It certainly wasn’t my reality for many years.

There was a journey to joy that I unwittingly embarked upon that took me to destinations of happiness, gladness, and then on to joy. Perhaps the following three-step roadmap looks familiar to you.


I’ve known happiness as far back as I can remember. I love to laugh and I will admit that I have a unique, and at times mischievous, sense of humor. Here are a few examples from high school. Having pets made me happy. Playing sports made me happy. Laughing with friends made me happy. Tricking a friend to stand in a bed of fire ants (yes, you read that right) made me happy. Really, it tickled the two of us once she got over the shock of seeing ants roaming all over her tennis shoes.

But happiness is a feeling that can come and go depending on life’s circumstances. It’s fleeting.

Have a bad day and the happiness is gone. Proverbs 14:13 teaches that, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.” Is happiness joy? I would say that it’s not.


Scripture says, “With gladness and rejoicing they shall be led. They shall enter into the king’s palace” (Psalm 45:15).

In studying the word gladness I noticed that it is closely linked to the words grateful/gratefulness or appreciation.

As we mature in our walk with the Lord we come to a place of gladness. This is a good place because our focus turns from superficial (self) to supernatural (God). Gladness helps us see God and draws us closer to Him with a heart of gratitude. It’s a great destination to visit on the journey to joy, but gladness isn’t joy.


I learned something new about joy as a result of writing this post. My brother was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital this week and on Wednesday had open heart surgery. Thank God he is recovering nicely.

But how do you find joy or know that you have it when you’re in the throes of a catastrophic situation?

The answer comes through belief and trust in a single name –Emmanuel, God with us. You see, I learned that wherever there is joy there is God. His presence in our lives brings us joy regardless of our circumstances. I don’t believe joy, true joy can be experienced without the presence of the Lord. God is omnipresent — He is everywhere and always with us.

He is that song that pops into our hearts, the tears that come from nowhere when we’re driving, the comfort and confidence we experience when things may appear bad, yet there is this blessed assurance the we are kept safe in the palm and presence of the Master’s hands.

In the midst of this trial, God gave me a new song and it was simply a song of praise and worship: the chorus Hallelujah.

God reminded me that He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and in His presence I can bask in safety… in great joy.

What about you? What is joy like to you? In what surprising moments have you found it lately?


Alicia TerryAlicia Terry is a speaker, trainer, writer, and blogger who loves using her gift of communication to equip God’s people for works of service so the body of Christ may be built up. She lives in Texas and is a lover of nature. She often learns some of the most profound life lessons through God’s creation and shares it in her writing. She encourages people to 1.) develop a sincere relationship with God, 2.) see themselves as God sees them, 3.) be who God has called them to be, 4.) do what God has called them to do, and 5.) change the world in the process. Alicia shares her insights on her blog at AliciaTerry.com.  In addition to connecting with Alicia on her blog, you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Share the love. . .Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookEmail this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this page