Joy. What is it? Who has it? Where can I get it?
The dictionary defines joy as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation” (see dictionary.reference.com). To say that someone or something is your joy is to say that the person or object is the source of pleasure or delight, or is greatly valued or appreciated. Therefore, it makes sense that people who have joy are often happy. Joy is often thought of as an emotion, but it is much more than just a feeling of happiness. Happiness is based upon momentary circumstances and emotions, whereas joy has a more enduring quality of sustained pleasure and delight. As Francis Chan puts it, “…true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God” (Crazy Love, pg. 146).
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:12 NIV)
“Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 86:4 NIV)
How can we develop genuine joy in our hearts?
We need to honestly ask God to fill our hearts with the joy of His salvation and let it overflow into every area of our lives. We need to first put our trust—all of our trust—in Jesus Christ before we can expect to experience true joy (see Psalm 86:4 above). He is the source of our fulfillment, pleasure, satisfaction, and delight. He is our source of contentment and peace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:8-10 ESV)
What does joy look like in difficult times and circumstances? What about in good times?
It’s easy to say “I have joy in the Lord,” when life is going the way you expected or how you like it. But whenever the unexpected happens, when your worst nightmares become reality, the idea of joy often quickly fades into the background. When you feel displeasure, grief, or a general lack of happiness, you can easily lose your sense of joy. However, to have true joy in the Lord is to remember who God is during our best and our worst times in life. When life is good, joy looks like delighting in the Lord with attitudes of thankfulness, appreciation, contentment, and generosity. When life is not going so well, joy looks like trusting the Lord to see you through the hard times, cultivating and maintaining attitudes of thankfulness, appreciation, contentment, and generosity. It looks like counting your blessings whether you have a lot or a little, resting in the goodness and faithfulness of God either way.
True joy in the Lord is the key to all of life’s problems. I know that sounds like a pretty bold statement, because it is. When we have joy in the Lord, remembering his gift of salvation and our status as new creations in Jesus, our temporary troubles and circumstances can be viewed from a different, higher perspective. When we find joy, we also find peace, love, and rest as a result. We still experience pain, sorrow, and stress, but when we have joy we have the necessary tools and skills to handle the troubles of this life effectively and in a way that honors our Creator.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33&34 NIV; see also Matt. 6:25-32)
How do you cultivate and maintain joy in your life?
What does joy look like in your present circumstances?
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