Acts 16:34 describes he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God.
What’s the difference between being happy and having joy?
I would suggest happiness is a result of circumstances and joy is the result of attitude. Feelings tell me whether I am happy or not but conviction tells me I have joy.
Interestingly, God promises joy but not happiness.
Most of us strive to be happy which we equate with comfort, peace and success. When everything is going my way and I am not hungry, cold, irritated, agitated or frustrated, I am happy. Happiness measures life by its benefit to self.
Joy on the other hand reflects on the important and is glad. Joy is the sibling of hope for both look past their circumstances to what is ultimately good and true and right.
The jailer in today’s verse was a man of rank and probably some means. While his work involved the worst of humanity he was powerful enough to avoid injustice and wealthy enough to enjoy some of life’s good things.
Yet without God we cannot have joy because we don’t have everlasting hope.
No doubt the jailer had various experiences with happiness until he fought with his child, spouse, boss or donkey! Joy came to him when he met Jesus and realized that no matter what happens in life God loves him and is even now making an eternal dwelling place for him to live.
Joy counts our blessings and give thanks whereas happiness only considers the blessings of the moment. Joy remembers life’s best moments which are always associated with people who are loved. Happiness remembers experiences and events that soon fly away causing us to look for the next high.
Christmas gifts perhaps best illustrate the difference between happiness and joy. At Christmas I am happy when I get what I want or receive something I think is great. At Christmas I experience joy when I watch little children excitedly open their presents or when I’ve done a little something that truly blesses someone else.
All of us want to be happy; we all desire pleasant and comfortable circumstances. By God’s grace we all receive such moments in our lives.
If we really want joy, a life that is positive and fulfilling no matter the circumstances, then we will submit our lives to Jesus Christ and the eternal love relationship He offers.