What is Joy? Where can I find it?
Unlike happiness, this fruit of the Spirit stays with you throughout the good and bad times.
In my last post, we took a look at what the Bible had to say about love, in this post we’re going to consider the second fruit, joy.
What does the Bible say about joy?
As you look at the pages of the Bible, you’ll find it has a lot to say about joy. We won’t be able to look into all of those passages, but we’ll begin to see that it is an important characteristic for Christians to have.
Perhaps, one of the best places to begin is in the book of Psalms. When we explore the Psalms, we find regular mentions of joy.
- We see where God’s people, and the peoples of the earth, are commanded to “shout for joy” (Ps 32:11; 33:1; 35:27; 66:1).
- We discover joy in the Psalms is often connected with singing (Ps 47:1; 63:7; 81:1; 84:2; 95:1, 2; 100:1; 105:43) and with our great salvation (Ps 71:23).
- For example, in Psalm 63:7, the Psalmist says “for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing with joy” (ESV). As Christians, joy comes as a result of reflecting on the goodness and greatness of our God.
Joy is good for you
There are many benefits to joy. The book of Proverbs tells us that “a joyful heart is good medicine” (17:22).
Joy is also connected to:
- obedience to the Lord (Eccl 2:26)
- experiencing God working in our lives and the lives of others (Lk 10:17; Acts 15:3)
- seeing other Christians grow (Phil 2:2; 1 Thess 2:19-20; 3:9; 3 Jn 4)
- being with other Christians (2 Jn 12)
- being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52; Rom 14:17; 1 Thess 1:6).
Interestingly enough, the Bible tells us that we are to have joy even in the hard times (Js 1:2). But wait a minute! Doesn’t God want us to be happy all the time? How can we be joyful when we’re going through bad times? I’m glad you asked.
Joy or Happiness: Which one does God promise?
Many people mistake joy with happiness, but there is a big difference between the two. Happiness is temporary; joy is not. It may be helpful to take another look at that passage from James to see why:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (Js 1:2-4, ESV).
The reason that we are to have joy in the hard times is because we’re looking not just at what’s going on now, but to the future. We’re looking at the end result.
What we ultimately want to be, says James, are people who are “perfect,” complete,” and “lacking nothing.” Now, when he uses this language, he doesn’t mean that we can be perfect in the absolute sense. Only God is perfect that way.
What he’s getting at is that we need to “count it all joy” because these trials lead to a mature Christian faith. We have joy because we trust God, and we trust that He knows what He is doing, even when things get rough.
How do I find joy in hard times?
Let’s consider some steps to help with incorporating the virtue of joy into our lives:
- Step 1: Look through a couple of the Psalms (some of the ones listed above) and see how many times you see the word “joy.” List out all the ways that those Psalms speak of joy.
- Step 2: Meditate on God and His attributes. Think about God’s goodness and His greatness. Tell God how thankful you are for His salvation and work in your life.
- Step 3: Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with joy.
Now, the above steps are not a magical formula. They’re simply suggestions. But, there’s something else we need to consider, too. Sometimes we might have sin in our lives that’s blocking our joy. So, we might include two additional steps to consider:
- Step 4: Ask the Lord to reveal any sin that might be in your life that’s keeping you from experiencing His joy.
- Step 5: Begin looking for ways that you can replace complaining with rejoicing.
I’ll end with some good advice from Jesus’s servant, Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)