First off, I’d just like to apologize for not having posted in so long. Life’s been pretty hectic lately, and I haven’t gotten around to it. But that’s no excuse for not having posted, so I apologize profusely.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the first fruit on our plate for this series- joy. I would liken joy to a peach; it’s the sweetest of the fruits. Though it’s not really that fuzzy… maybe it’s more of an apricot… but that’s beside the point. Now, in case you have the fruits of the spirit memorized in order and are just getting ready to send me a bunch of hate-mail because I forgot love, remember- we’re sort of skipping that one. Well, not skipping it, but hopefully my previous 10-part series on love was enough to satisfy your appetite for now.
So- joy. It’s a very overused word in Christian circles. We seem to like to throw it around casually in any context; it has become just another vocabulary word in our Christian-ese dictionaries. But true Joy is so much more than what we like to reduce it to. First off, let’s look at what the Bible says about joy.
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”
What to these verses tell us about joy? Well, aside from revealing that there was apparently some unspoken code requiring that joy only be spoken of in verse 11 of any given book or chapter. these verses tell us quite a bit about joy. Let’s look at them individually. First, from John 15:11, we see that joy comes from the Lord. It does not originate in man, but rather is a gift from the creator. This makes sense in light of verses such as James 1:17a, which says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” I would definitely consider joy to be a good gift; therefore, it must come from the Father.
Also, from both John 15:11 and Psalm 16:11, we can see that joy is something that fills us. Imagine our hearts as a measuring cup of some kind- joy is poured into our lives, and fills us to different degrees. God desires for our joy to be full; in other words, He wants us to experience the fullness of the joy that comes from being in His presence. This is also evidenced by Psalm 16:11, where it says that fullness of joy exists in the presence of God. So we see that joy is something that can exist in our lives and hearts to different degrees- we can have a little bit of joy, or we can have a lot. And we find that the only way to truly find greater joy is to be living in God’s presence. Joy comes from Him, so the closer we are to Him, the more joy will fill our lives.
Finally, in Psalm 32:11, we find that joy belongs to those who live righteously. This is consistent with what we’ve seen, as those who are living upright lives will inevitably be walking closer with God, allowing them to experience more of the joy that comes from His presence. The more we strive to live according to God’s laws and statutes, the closer we will be in our relationship with Him, and the more joy we will experience.
From all these facts about joy, we can finally draw a good definition of joy. Though any such definition will of course be imperfect, as it is formulated by imperfect beings, it can at least give us a good place to start as we strive to better understand joy. Joy can be defined as follows:
“Joy is the source of all happiness, the true form of gladness and lightness of heart from which all feelings of satisfaction or happiness flow. Joy comes the Father, and is an essential part of who He is. It is given as a gift to man, and because it is a component part of the being of God, the closer one is to God, the greater the joy that person will be filled with. Joy exists only in the presence of the Lord, and true joy cannot ever be realized by those who live apart from Him.” (My own definition- feel free to comment if you see any flaws!)
Wow! That’s quite a mouthful. At first glance, it can appear confusing, but if we look closely, we find that it is simply a summary of what we find about joy in the verses we’ve looked at. If we were to conduct a much more exhaustive study of what the Bible says about joy, we could certainly learn much more about it to add to our definition. But for now, I think this is quite enough.
Now, let’s go into our definition and examine its component parts. Hopefully by expanding upon each primary idea, we can get a pretty full understanding of the nature of joy and what it means for us. Let’s start at the beginning of definition- “Joy is the source of all happiness, the true form of gladness and lightness of heart from which all feelings of satisfaction or happiness flow.” What does this mean? Essentially, it identifies joy as being above all these forms of “happiness.” Though in modern society the words “joy” and “happiness” are often used interchangeably, they are actually quite different. Happiness is simply a result of joy, sort of a “runoff” of true joy. Happiness can be experienced by anybody, but joy only exists fully for those who are living for and with God.
At its most basic level, happiness is simply good feelings caused by circumstances. On the other hand, true joy is good feelings despite circumstances. One can have joy even in the darkest of times, because it exists apart from the mundane things of life. Joy can only be possessed by those who have this connection with that which is apart from the world- namely, God. If one is rooted solely in this world and has no relationship with a fixed point outside of it, then when their worldly circumstances fall apart, their happiness will, too. But because our joy is anchored in something not tied down by worldly things- our Heavenly Father- our joy can remain unfazed by unfortunate worldly happenings.
I hope that makes sense. Feel free to comment if you’d like clarification on any of the points I make in a post!
Now lets look at the next part of the definition: “Joy comes from the Father, and is an essential part of who He is.” This is a much easier concept to understand. As we saw from James 1:17, all that is good and perfect comes from God. Joy is a beautiful thing, and thus comes from our beautiful Creator. Joy is an essential part of who God is because it is one of His most prominent and vital character attributes. God is a God of joy and rejoicing. He fill us with awe, wonder, and undying joy. Without joy, God would not be who He is.
“It is given as a gift to man, and because it is a component part of the being of God, the closer one is to God, the greater the joy that person will be filled with.” This is strongly tied to the previous section- joy comes from God, and because we can possess it, it is one of those “good and perfect gifts” mentioned in James. In addition, because it is a vital part of who God is, the amount of joy a person experiences is proportional to how close that person is in their walk with God. One who is very distant from their Saviour will inevitably be distant from His joy, as well. On the other hand, if one is truly living in the fullness of the presence of God, fulfilling His commands and seeking to serve Him, they will experience more of the fullness of His joy.
Finally: “Joy exists only in the presence of the Lord, and true joy cannot be realized by those who live apart from Him.” This is simply another way of phrasing what has already been stated- true Joy, not mere happiness, cannot ever be possessed by those who don’t know God or aren’t walking with Him. Only in His presence can true joy be found.
Well, as Bob the Tomato would say, “That’s all we have for today, kids.” I hope that this post has helped you a lot in your understanding of what joy really is. It’s a fascinating topic, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what joy really means. Feel free to comment on what you liked or didn’t like. And if you’re ever interested in learning more about any of the topics I post about, or any other topic for that matter, feel free to comment or shoot me an email- I’d love to study the Word more deeply with you!