Joy is such a beautiful word, three simple letters tied together with gladness and enchantment. The word joy is defined as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; a state of happiness or felicity caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; the expression or display of glad feeling or great appreciation. It’s historic use is paired with terms such as rejoice, jubilation, exhilaration and triumph.
From a distinctly Christian perspective, to possess a joyful heart is to express a gift and empowerment from God. Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:22), an evidence of the Lord’s presence and power bursting forth from the deepest place of one’s soul. To have a joyful and glad heart is to be grateful for the many gifts and blessings that come to us directly from the generous hand of God. It’s seen throughout the Bible in the contexts of singing for joy, feasting with joy, comfort and joy, peace and joy, progress and joy, joy in hope, and shouts of joy.
Within the community of faith, the Apostle Paul reminds his beloved followers to put love into action by hating what is evil, clinging to what is good, being devoted to one another, honoring each other with sincere love. In so doing, to also “ Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12: 9-12). Joy is to be exhibited within the relationships we are invited to build for the glory of God. A joyful heart evokes joy among the Church and leads others into harmony with one another where we indeed rejoice with those who rejoice (and weep with those who weep). Joy is the glue that bonds our love together as children of the King.
However, joy isn’t just for the positive times…it’s more powerful when experienced in the darkest, most difficult times of life. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”(James 1: 2-4). No matter the circumstances of our lives, we are to rejoice and be glad. “Then I would still have this consolation – my joy in unrelenting pain – that I had not denied the words of the Holy One,” testifies Job (Job 6:10). And from the Prophet Habakkuk, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Hab. 3: 17-19).
Choosing and discovering joy in the midst of life’s most trying obstacles and disappointments is nothing short of a miracle of God’s grace. Having been in such a state many times in my Christian life, I have marveled at God’s goodness and mercy over and over again. Though others may turn against me and cause me great harm; though loved ones may suffer untold agony of heart and body; though the world and the enemy of my soul may wreak havoc on the work of my hands…the Lord’s faithfulness has turned my sorrow into joy and in that truth my heart is glad. We may not see the redemptive value of the pain we’re in immediately, but in God’s timing and through God’s means His will radiates above and beyond the deepest heartache and suffering we endure this side of heaven. And we can sing with the prophet,“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior!”
Since the Lord our God is always with us, taking great delight in us, rejoicing over us with singing (Zeph. 3:17), in response we too are to find our greatest joy in Him. The Apostle Paul urges the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5: 16-18). Will you make that concerted choice and allow joy to be the posture of your heart, mind and will today?