You’re probably familiar with the following question often the subject of study and discussion: Can money buy happiness? In fact, if you Google the question you’ll run across articles and perhaps research trying to determine the answer.
In most cases, at least in what I’ve read, researched, and experienced, the answer to the question in general is no. But I’ve read some studies which point out the answer is yes, to a certain point. In other words, once basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) have been met, having more money doesn’t really make people any happier.
However, one study I came across says that money can actually bring happiness beyond meeting basic needs if you’re using money for giving and for entertainment such as taking a vacation. The experience you receive with your money for a vacation results in greater happiness. And with giving people are more selfless, which generates some feeling of happiness.
A more worthwhile topic
This is all fine, but it wasn’t until just recently I realized a more interesting and worthwhile topic to explore. I think it’s how our finances related to joy (not happiness). After listening to Warren Jacobs, the worship director at my church, speak at our men’s Bible study; I understood the difference between happiness and joy.
Happiness is related to an event (something happens). It’s when certain circumstances occur in a way that we feel are favorable.
- I work hard to get a job promotion and pay raise. I receive it and now I’m happy.
- I’ve always wanted a brand new big screen TV and now that I have one, I’m happy.
- I got out of debt and well, now I’m happy.
But do all of these things make us more joyful?
I believe that such results of happiness, as described above, are temporary. The happiness will run out and then there will be a new pursuit to find more happiness elsewhere. So, why even ask the question: will money buy happiness? Who cares! It’s not an everlasting feeling like joy.
Joy is a much deeper feeling that we can only receive from God. It’s much more worthy of our pursuit and attention. Philippians 3:1 tells us to “rejoice in the Lord.” God is the source of Christian joy.
Rather, we should be exploring joy in every aspect of our lives, including our finances. And, if you’re a Christian, joy can be present in anything, including difficult financial situations.
Joy in difficult situations
But, you may ask: how can I be joyful if I’m facing financial struggles? Or, to be more specific:
- How can I find joy in being in more debt than I know how to manage?
- How can I find joy when I just got laid off from your job and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to pay next month’s mortgage?
- How can I be joyful if I just lost most of my retirement investments when the stock market crashed?
An example of joy during financial struggle
The important thing to remember is God is present in our struggles. And if God is with us, we can certainly find joy.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago I was laid off from my job. We hadn’t done a very good job of saving for such emergencies, so there really was no money to fall back on if I didn’t get a job in the next few months. My severance would only help us for a short amount of time.
Strangely enough, this was one of the more joyful time periods in my life. Why? I came to realize I only had two approaches: 1) carry the entire weight of the situation on my own shoulders which would result in more stress and probably some panic, or 2) Do everything I could to find a job, but ultimately let God carry the weight for me through my trust in Him.
What was the result? I found great joy and peace in what was a real financial struggle because of my strong faith. I became encouraged about what God had planned for me. I rejoiced in Him! It was actually one of the more peaceful times in my life because my focus and dependency became entirely on God and not myself.
Practical steps in pursuing joy
So, what are some practical steps to help you find joy? I heard some great ideas from Warren while he spoke:
1. Submit yourself to God. As I did, realize God is in control and you can find the joy, peace and comfort in almost any situation.
2. See God in everything. If God is with us in our struggles, then he is everywhere. If God, Himself is joy, we can find joy in absolutely everything. You can be engaged in your situation or a conversation, but have God in your thoughts.
3. Contend what kills your joy. Yes, you have to fight and make changes. For me, I realized recently that one of the things that tries to compete or stifle God’s joy in my life is my life’s pace. Therefore, I have to learn to say no to certain things and slow down so that I can experience the true joy in what God is doing in my life.
Can you find joy while being in debt, having lost a job or having lost investments? While happiness may be absent around those situations, you can still be joyful.
Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
A final thought
Warren wrapped up his discussion with a couple of important points. Depression and difficult struggles are real. They shouldn’t be taken lightly, or you shouldn’t think you have to go at them alone. Sometimes help is needed and that’s okay. If this is you, please seek Christian counseling through your church to discuss your situation.
What are your thoughts on the differences described between happiness and joy? How do you think relates to your finances?