Do You Want Happiness or Joy?

I’ve realized that making all this money… means that I have to maintain it or keep making more. And it’s stressful.

An executive at a publishing company I used to work for said something like that during a lunch meeting one day. Immediately, I felt sorry for his situation, and I responded by telling the table that it seems like no amount is ever enough. The more money we get, the more we want (or even need). But if we try to find joy and learn to be content with our current circumstances, it gets much easier not to assume the pressure of “more, more, more.” After all, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul? (Mark 8:36)

There really wasn’t much of a response after I said this. I actually was a little weary that everyone would think I was strange. But I hoped something would stick. I may never know whether something did, but it was a risk I was willing to take… because I know what it’s like not being content.

Just a couple years ago, I would think and say things along the lines of wanting more. “Oh, I’ll be happy when I make more money,” or “I’ll be happy when I get out of debt.” But that was the problem: happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness is dependent on circumstances, while joy is a disposition that comes when you learn to be content. 

When I focused on my circumstances, I was happy in the morning and sad just a few hours later. But then I learned that joy is a more permanent state that I could be in if I learned to be content.

Gwenda Jayawardhana, Compass Australia founding member and one of our blog authors, touched on contentment earlier this year. She said the secret to being content does not lie in the things this world has to offer, but in abiding in Christ, rather. Even in the last blog, she said that using money rarely ever leads to contentment. Actually, it often leads to a tainted heart and a lot of hurt people along the way. (Missed the last blog? Read it here: 

The Apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty…” (Philippians 4:11-12).

I don’t know what you’re facing today, neither do I know what life has looked like for you over the past few years. Learning to be content is easier said than done. I’m not even confident in saying I’ll ever master it.

What I do know is that it can be learned. Don’t listen to those around you, who say you should have a “better” job, a bigger house or that you should dress a certain way. They don’t know what you need. God does.

So, listen to God, and rely on Him to give you the perspective you need. Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find (Matthew 7:7). Cast your cares upon Him, so you can learn to simply be thankful for today instead of worrying about tomorrow. For tomorrow will worry for itself (Matthew 6:34).

AUTHOR BIO Melody is the founder of financial coaching business Centsible Finance LLC, which publishes the free e-letter Making Cents. She earned a bachelor’s in public relations from the University of Florida in 2014, and a master’s in global strategic communications from Florida International University in 2017; but she discovered her passion in personal finance and writing, as well as a closer relationship with the Lord, after joining a Compass—Finances God’s Way study in 2020. She now also volunteers as a financial coach for MoneyWise, serves as a member on the Compass Florida board, is the editor for the Compass blog, and a facilitator and trainer for financial discipleship studies. Melody and her husband, Nate, live in South Florida.