Another way of translating the New Testament word for joy is “delight.”
So when we think of joy or delight, it is difficult to separate it from ideas of happiness or good, positive feelings. Joy certainly includes those things, but the Bible wants to take us deeper in our understanding of joy.
The Bible reveals this about joy:
- Sorrow and grief prepare us for joy. Jesus explained this was so to His disciples at the Last Supper when He likened joy to the suffering a woman undergoes before giving birth to her child. The suffering is intense for a time but is soon forgotten when a baby is born. (John 16:20-22). In the same way, our pain in life’s circumstances becomes the precursor to joy.
- Joy has its source in God. We read often in Scripture to “rejoice in God or the Lord.” Joy grows as a result of our relationship with Him.
To summarize then:
- Joy is not immediately associated with good feelings. They will come, but not necessarily straight away.
- Joy involves vision. Joyful people are big picture people because they have a larger perspective on God and what He is doing in their lives! (See Matt.5:11-12; Rom. 5:3-5)
- Joy does not deny the current, difficult circumstances or the painful feelings involved. But it does come to the place of thanking God and choosing to find joy in Him.
A working definition of joy:
- Joy is not associated with “good feelings” immediately. In fact, it acknowledges the negative feelings being experienced and brings them to God.
- Joy sees the bigger picture of what God is doing and understands, despite the circumstances, He is working for good in the midst of them.
- Joy then, is able to accept God’s will for my life and to thank Him for it because He is also working out His larger purposes in and through me and others.
- Joy doesn’t give up.
- Ultimately, the joyful heart rests and trust in the Lord because He alone is the source of our joy.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
(The Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:4).
Grace and peace,