I’ll share a secret with you. Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, I was a joyless person. My life had happiness, of course, but rarely did I see, feel, experience, or even understand true joy.
You can bet that I prayed for joy. I experienced great curiosity about it and even felt I’d grasped it a time or two. But it seemed to flit and float away far more quickly than it had come. It felt elusive and transient, adding to my confusion about what true joy is.
What is joy?
Like many, I believed that joy was an emotion—something to be felt. I realized that our society generally pairs joy with favorable circumstance. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines joy as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.
If joy is based on our personal well-being, success, and good fortune, it would stand to reason that we could live our entire lifetimes completely void of joy. There’s enough depressing and discouraging news in any given day to hold our focus on all things negative. It’s entirely possible to fix our minds so firmly on news headlines, crime statistics, terminal illnesses, divorce rates, prodigal children, broken relationships, and heart-wrenching loss that we never turn our gaze to something like well-being. If joy is based on the prospect of possessing what one desires, our lives can travel on a perpetually joyless path—especially in our society where we always, always desire more.
There’s got to be more to this thing called joy.
What does God say about joy?
Word studies and Bible references can add a lot of understanding to the mysteries of life.
The term “joy,” used in both the Old and New Testaments, have Hebrew and Greek definitions that are quite similar, meaning gladness and the pleasure of God. The Greek definition also expresses celebration. Now there’s a definition I can sink my teeth into.
Let’s debate this a bit. If circumstances produce joy, why did Eve desire more than paradise could offer in the Garden? Before the Fall, she had a perfect life that God described as “very good,” but because of temptation by the Evil One, she hungered for more. As her story unfolds, we learn that Eve’s pursuit of knowledge and power brought her anything but gladness and pleasure.
King David, who could have had anything his heart desired, pursued Bathsheba, the wife of another man. His life as king seemed perfect, yet he, too, hungered for more. He recognized that his circumstances and pursuits left him lacking and that only God could provide the joy he craved.
Galatians 5:22-23 reveals joy that is not simply an emotion, but fruit of the Spirit. When we allow Christ to be the forgiver and leader of our lives, His Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Literally, the Holy Spirit dwells within the children of God. His power works within us and results in a visible expression described in Scripture as “fruit.” The power of the Holy Spirit manifests itself through many characteristics of fruit, one of which is joy.
Fruit of the Spirit
By understanding joy as fruit of the Spirit, we recognize its divine nature. If joy is divine, it must come from a divine source, meaning that God alone is the source of true joy. Divine joy is vastly different from an emotion. It stems from abiding in God, communing and abiding in Him. Jesus explains in John 15:4 that a branch cannot bear its own fruit, but must abide in the vine. To abide in Christ, the Vine, is to remain and endure with Him. His power produces only good fruit, which includes joy. This fruit will last. It is not fleeting, or temporary, but enduring.
When we look to Him alone, our joy becomes complete and continues to grow into juicy, colorful, mature fruit. Some grapes on a vine are small and hard to see, while others are large and vibrantly colored. Both types are real fruit. We have days (or even seasons) when our joy is hard to see. Perhaps we carry a burden for a loved one, are overwhelmed with stress, or face a trying circumstance. In these times, we don’t feel much like celebrating and can often seem withdrawn and even sad.
The key is learning to recognize that our joy is still present, and always within our grasp—even in such times as these. It cannot fade because it is a result of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit working within us.
Joy is always within reach
Joy does not always prevent us from shedding tears or protect us from feeling sorrow, but true joy will lessen the depth of our despair and help us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to move out of times of misery more quickly. It sustains us through even the deepest sorrows and helps us keep our focus on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith.
Some days we find that our joy looks more like a great big, juicy grape. We cannot contain it as the fruit bursts out from its vine. Our hearts overflow with joy; we can’t stop smiling and want to hug nearly every person we see. It doesn’t take a life-changing event to feel this joyful, as we can also celebrate the simple ways of God.
Isaiah 60:5 describes joy this way: “Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice.” This is exactly what I desire—joy that makes my heart pound and feel full and joy that is visible from across the room because it oozes from my spirit. I hunger for joy that makes my eyes sparkle, even in moments of sadness, and makes people say, “Whatever she has, I want some of that!”
What is the foundation of this kind of joy? How do we develop it and make sure it’s always in our grasp? By clinging tightly to our Lord through time and communion with Him. When we keep our minds steadfastly on Him, the power of His Holy Spirit moves through us and sustains us with unending joy.
Throughout this blog series, we’ll discover practical help and Godly wisdom for embracing today’s joy, just as God intends. I’m excited to introduce you to bloggers from all over the globe and learn alongside you as they inspire us to walk in the joy of the Lord, today and every day.