When you think of joy or being joyful, what do you think of? Do you think of being extremely happy? Do you think of being content? Satisfied? Millions of dollars are spent a year by people across the globe so they can try to find happiness, contentment, satisfaction…joy. The unfortunateness of all this is the money put toward these objects goes wasted because eventually the “joyful bliss” they bring runs dry.
Pure joy is not a product of the mind. It is not an object created by human hands. It cannot be made, discovered or even bought. Instead, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Many are in the pursuit of finding happiness, of finding joy, yet they are pursing the wrong object. The only thing that can grant us pure happiness, pure joy, is God Himself. The joy He can give us is one that lasts a lifetime; one that we can experience even in the midst of what seems incomprehensible difficulties or tragedy.
While comparing God’s continual, never-ending joy to our humanly joy, think of what destroys joy for us? Difficulties, loss, tragedy, brokenness, depression, all of these destroy our joy. As long as we are on this earth, our joy will always diminish and eventually end when we try to find it on our own. What’s even worse is we usually realize the joy, or happiness, will not last while we are in the midst of striving for it.
Consider the biggest “tragedy” in all of history, the one where a Father gave away His Son to be crucified on a cross and have the sins of the ENTIRE world draped on Him. Let us consider the Son in all of this, knowing He was sent on this earth with the sole purpose of saving us all from the death we so often deserve. Paul said such in Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The Father who went through this “tragedy,” the Son who endured the cross and took on our sin, not His, both still know joy. God created each of us in His image. We are all His children. He has seen each and every difficulty and tragedy we have faced as humans over the last however many thousands of years; yet, He still finds joyfulness. God does not find joy in our difficulty or tragedy, but He does find joy in something other than where mankind finds it. It is this joy, this never-changing, ever-present joy, we need to seek. It is this joy that God so desperately desires to give us.
When thinking of the Biblical definition of joy, we have to go back to the languages the Bible was originally written in, Greek and Hebrew, and translate the word joy. All of the translations have synonyms much like the English synonyms for joy, except for one, makarios. In the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus uses the Greek word makarios, which translated means blessed. Here is an excerpt from the Amplified Bible Version of Matthew 5:3, “Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life—joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
For us to be able to experience pure joy, Biblical joy, we much look beyond our human nature and instead look towards God’s nature. The joy we are able to find here on earth pales in comparison to the joy God has and wants to share with us. We must be able to come to a point in our faith where we are confident of not only God’s presence in our lives, but also in His ability to provide for us in the past, present and future. We must strive to understand we are truly blessed by our Father who wants only the greatest for His children.
“No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For You will not leave my soul among the dead or allow Your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever.” – Psalm 16:9-11
Therefore, Biblical joy can only be achieved when our relationship with God is undividable. We must learn to understand God has a plan and purpose for our lives and He is ever-present in them. If we allow God to be ever-present in our lives, then His joy, the joy He wants so badly for us to experience, can begin to manifest within us.
A common misconception is believing that by being a Christian you can gain joy, where in fact that is not the case. A Christian’s joy can be as short-lived as any other person’s on earth if they are seeking it for the wrong reason. Biblical joy is the byproduct of self-denial with the sole purpose of serving God and fellow people of this world. This self- denial produces a joy only God can give.
In a world revolved around self-centeredness, learning to become God-centered is impossible without Him. We live in a society that cares more about self-gratification than relationship. We live in a society full of instant gratification, between instant coffee and instant communication to instant information and answers. We care more about helping ourselves than serving others.
Although self-centeredness can produce joy and happiness, it is not a lasting feeling. By becoming God-centered instead of self-centered, joy becomes a fruit and blessing from the Father instead of an object of constant pursuit. In Ephesians 5:15-20, Paul warned of this constant pursuit:
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
All-in-all, anyone can experience some sort of joy, but it is lasting joy we all seek. If we continually seek joy in the pleasurable distractions of this world, we will not find it. Yet, if we partake in self-forgetting, God-centered activities, we will find the lasting joy only He can show us. If we yield to God’s purpose for our lives, to serve and love one another, then He will show us the joy He so desperately wants for us. When we are resting in Him fully, God will show us even in the midst of what seems as incomprehensible difficulties or tragedy, we can have His joy. No matter the circumstance, God will give us a joy beyond anything this world full of objects can give, and more so, He will perfect us in Him.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” – James 1:2-4