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Joy or Happiness?

September is a difficult month for me. The month brings many sad memories to light but, at the same time, teaches me about the “Joy of the Lord.” Holy joy does not equal worldly happiness. So, what is the difference? Let’s look at how I learned the difference. 

My Story of Lost Joy

“My water broke, get up!” I shouted to my sleeping husband. It was time for our third bundle of joy to make an appearance. However, my due date was still several weeks away, but excitement ruled the early hours of that fall morning.

Joy or Happiness?

Hours of labor finally gave way to the birth of our first son, William Charles. Upon hearing, it was a boy, my husband, Bill, ran off to tell our girls and the rest of the collected family. But, as Bill left the room, I noticed a strange look on my doctor’s face. The doctor walked over to my bed and spoke in hushed tones. “I tried to stop your husband because I need to tell you both something. There is something wrong with your son.” Panic welled up, and I heard the doctor order a sedative for me. Bill walked back into a very different place than the one he had joyously run out of a few minutes earlier. Our son had severe birth defects, life-threatening birth defects. My doctor explained that they would perform testing to determine the extent of his problems. The outlook was bleak at best.

Dark Days

The next several days became a blur of activity and raw emotions. Finally, we received a diagnosis. William had Tetrasomy 9P, in layman terms; he has four tops instead of two on his ninth chromosome. Only nine other babies are known to be born with this defect because most die before birth. Our son died nine days later. My world shattered as I watched him draw his last breath while lying in my arms.

During those dark days of mourning, I came across a verse that surprised me. James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” I wanted to throw away my Bible immediately. Consider it pure joy? I buried my only son, and I am supposed to feel joy? The dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” However, I could not reconcile this verse to the depression that enveloped me. I felt in my heart that I might lose my religion altogether if I did not find the Joy of Christ again in my life.

Learning About Joy

Joy is not happiness. Joy is not a temporary, fleeting emotion. As Christians, we learn joy comes from our relationship with Christ. Kay Warren defined Joy in the following way:

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

What About Happiness

I tried to wrap my head around this Christian definition of Joy. God was in control of my situation, and I knew He would make everything turn out all right. But how would God make the death of my son all right? How could I praise God in the middle of this tragedy? On the other hand, I knew I would see my son again someday, and I allowed this vision to ignite a little joy in my soul. That thought was the starting point for praising Him. I wish I could tell you things improved right away, but they did not. It took years. I still cried rivers of tears. Even now, I wish my son were alive. Sometime, I still pray I would wake up from this horrible nightmare. My situation did not change, but my heart slowly found joy as I praised Him each day.

My Joy is in Christ

Finally, years later, God spoke through the pain in my heart and showed me children, in need. He encouraged me to start an orphan ministry, and now we have 50 children calling us mom and dad. God also provided me opportunities to write and speak to help others find their joy again. During those horrible days, I thought about walking away from my faith. Now, I realize how many blessings I would have missed. I chose to find joy in Christ, no matter my circumstances. When I have nothing, God was all I needed.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 NIV
Are Joy & Happiness Different?


Dearest Lord, increase in us the understanding of Godly joy. Teach us to thank you in all circumstances, and to learn the Joy of Christ is not the same as worldly joy. Calm our hearts and provide us the quiet confidence to place our trust in your perfect plans. You are the only provider of real joy. Lord, thank you for not abandoning us. Thank you for walking beside us always and for providing all we need in life. In Jesus’ most holy name, we pray. Amen.


Yvonne M. Morgan, author, blogger, and speaker.

Matthew 28:19 “Therefore, GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

100% of the proceeds from my book’s sales, Turning Mountains Into Molehills, help the orphans at Orphan Relief Effort, Inc.

Additional Resources:

My Story

Learn About My Book

Getting to know Jesus

Prayer for Salvation

The Happiest Place on Earth

She Laughs

Fruits of the Spirit – Joy and Peace

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Joy is knowing that “in Christ” we shall see our lost loved ones again; perfect in every way, for eternity. God’s blessings gentle lady.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thanks J.D. What a glorious reunion awaits us in eternity. Plus we will see our Savior face to face. God bless.

  2. mimionlife

    Thinking of you and wishing I could give you a hug in person. Thank you for sharing your story. Sending love, hugs and prayers.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thank you so much for a virtual hug. They are wonderful too (and safe). It was many years ago and most of the time is okay. But 9/8 and 9/17 are hard. Even so, the light of God still sins through to remind me of all the other blessings in my life. Have a blessed day Melissa.

  3. Candice Brown

    God has brought so much joy out of the tragic situation. Though I’ve experienced grief and loss as well, and seen God work through it, it deeply moves me how you turned the well off grief of losing your only son into caring for children with no parents. This is the true work of Jesus, my friend. Keep shining for him; I pray your story reaches many grieving hearts wondering how to make sense of their tragedy and wondering where God is. 💕

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thanks Candice. We all have stories to share that can help others in their struggles. It is so important to share them so people can see the light of God in the darkness of their situation. God bless

  4. Ava Pennington

    Yvonne, I’m so sorry for your loss. Doesn’t matter how many years have passed, the pain is still there. I’m learning, after the loss I experienced 2 years ago that these experiences are reminders of our broken world, but they’re also reminders of the treasures awaiting us in heaven.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thanks so much Ava. We do have so many treasures in heaven awaiting us and that is such a blessing to my heart when the sadness come. God bless

  5. Jessica Brodie

    It’s one of the hardest things we need to do, but understanding the REAL definition of joy, that peaceful and hopeful assurance in God and His promises, makes so much difference. Happiness comes and goes. Joy can be found even in sorrow. Yvonne, thank you SO much for sharing your story. God bless you.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thanks Jessica. Understanding the difference does make a huge impact on our faith. I think sometimes it is the make or break moment in faith for some people. God bless

  6. Melinda Viergever Inman

    It’s incredible how God used the loss of your precious son to one day bring you to the place of being mother and father to 50 orphans! That might not ever have happened if your son had not been called home to Jesus’ arms so soon. At the time of his loss, I never would have said such a thing to you. I would have set with you and cried and held your hand. But looking back from this vantage, it’s possible to see one positive outcome — parents for these orphans. Still, I wept as I read your story and wished you hadn’t had to lose your precious boy. God’s ways are not our ways. He knows the plan he is working out. Learning to love God and to accept his doings is one of our challenges as believers. God bless you, sister, as you think of your son and anticipate seeing him with Jesus.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thank you so much for your beautiful words of encouragement. They do help. And I know my son has the best care taker in the universe. As the second part of Psalm 30:5 tells us; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. My tears may come but I know my Light is coming too. God bless.

  7. June Foster

    I leaned forward in my office chair as I read your story. You certainly would understand the difference between joy and happiness. That is my prayer, that I will still experience joy in the midst of tragedy. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thank you June. I pray I will always be able to tell the difference too. It can still be difficult I appreciate you commenting. God bless.

  8. Melissa McLaughlin

    Yvonne, your words brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing the aching agony of this experience of losing your precious little son. For we know others carry this same or similar aches. Your story ministers to my heart as you truthfully share the steps forward, bit by bit, leading to find joy in our Savior. The hope of heaven helps us not to grieve like those without hope. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt in the meantime. I love this raw, candid, hope-filled post. May we help carry one another toward our Savior in hope and yes, in joy. Bless you, dear sister.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thank you so much my friend. It helps to share in hopes of shining the hope of God to those who are dealing with grief. The world wants to let us languish in our suffering but Christ give us an eternal promise. The promise of eternity with Him and our loved one. We will all experience a incredible reunion someday. So hold onto hope.

  9. Stephen De La Vega

    Hi Yvonne. I’m so glad you were able to experience joy after your loss. God’s joy truly transcends our situations. How great it is that you continue to have the opportunity to care for and be a part of the lives of many orphans over the years. Thank you for that necessary and hope-filled ministry.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thanks Stephen. It is a true joy to be able to serve in such a memorable way. God bless.

  10. Karen Friday

    Oh, Yvonne, your story always makes me a little tearful. I can’t imagine losing a precious child like that. When I think of any pain and great loss, joy from the Lord is the only way to survive it. Real and deep joy the world can’t offer us.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Amen Karen. It is the only way to survive the grief of this world. This is another reason to share Christ with others, so they can real hope and eternal life. Thanks and God bless.

  11. Marcie Cramsey

    Yvonne, my heart is breaking for you. I want to cry! The pain of losing a child is indescribable! But your faith journey is inspiring. How many want to walk away from their faith in times such as this, but don’t? Many walk away! But you put your pain into a purpose that serves others. I think this is how God turns our hurt into good. Thank you for your vulnerability.

    1. Yvonne Morgan

      Thanks Marcie. And if I can do it so can others. That is why it is important to share our stories so we can encourage others. Christ can turn all our tragedies into triumphs. God bless.

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