Seeking Joy Rather than Happiness

What is happiness? What is joy? What is the difference and why does it matter?

Jim O’Day, executive director of Integrity Restored, joined Trending with Timmerie this week to discuss happiness and joy, and he reflected on his experience of having a major heart attack just weeks prior.

“I think I learned something about joy because of that massive heart attack,” said O’Day. “They had to defibrillate me twice to bring me back. It was the most unbelievable feeling—probably the most peace I’ve felt in my life, to be honest with you. And I was just having a real heart-to-heart conversation with Jesus and saying, if this is your will, I know your will is perfect and you know what’s best for me, but what about my wife… my kids… my grandkids?”

“And I look at life a little differently now. I guess it’s very common to be really anxious or depressed or angry after a major heart attack like that, and I don’t have any of those things, Timmerie. I just wake up every morning and pretty much every minute of every day just thinking about how blessed I am,” O’Day explained.

This experience, he says, taught him about the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is something we all seek, and it’s not bad, but it is fleeting. It is based in earthly pleasures, material things, and feelings—all things that are temporary.

“But joy is something different. Joy is spiritual at its nature. It’s lasting because it is based on inward circumstances. Who am I? I am a child of God,” said O’Day.

I am a child of God. When you don’t just say those words, but really internalize them and believe them, your life changes. As O’Day said, “If you truly believe it, how can you not be joyful?”

This isn’t to say that you will always be happy, peppy, and in a great mood. Joy isn’t simply an emotion—it’s a step beyond. It’s a virtue, a spiritual understanding that you are beloved by the Creator and it’s something that the world cannot take away. Bad days and difficulties will come, but joy endures.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 14:17

Have you ever had an experience that taught you about joy?

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Lindsey Kettner serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a wife, mother, and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studied journalism and advertising. She writes daily at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.