Pops of joy. Bursts of light. A rush of excitement that travels up and down my spine. Moments of hope. Reminders of redeeming grace.
Moments of complete satisfaction come, accompanied by joy. Moments of pure light. Moments of the precious presence of the Father. But they are only moments. They quickly fade like the evening sun.
What does stick around, however, is the cold, hard, reality of life.
If our joy is honest joy, it must somehow be congruous with human tragedy. This is the test of joy’s integrity: is it compatible with pain? . . . Only the heart that hurts has a right to joy. ~Lewis Smedes
Joy was the topic in a sermon series about the fruit of the spirit at my church.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Galatians 5:22-23
Everything about the Gospel is about love. And we are instructed to love above all else. Of course it is first. Love is central to our faith.
I find it interesting that joy is listed second. Why would joy be put in such an important position? I pondered the thought.
Recently in a conversation, I found myself saying that I wasn’t sure if I was capable of joy anymore. My life has been complicated and messy and I have experienced numerous losses. . . like most people have.
And, I don’t do joy very well. I never have.
So, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to study joy.
We all know that we are supposed to rejoice in our suffering.
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope Romans 5:3,4
And always be joyful.
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Knowing my current state of joylessness led me to feeling guilty. I wasn’t feeling joyful. I wasn’t rejoicing in suffering. I wasn’t being obedient. Or, so I thought.
Not only was I not joyful, but I was in more turmoil because of the guilt. So, in the spirit of Yoda from Star Wars, study joy, I did.
What is joy anyway? How do I know that I am not being joyful?
What if most of us have a wrong understanding of joy? What if joy and happiness are not the same thing?
Happiness comes from the root word, “happening.” Therefore, happiness is based on what happens to us. Any number of things can make us happy. At least temporarily.
- getting married
- having a baby
- fulfilling your calling in life
- being successful
If I get a lot of likes on Facebook or Twitter, it makes me happy. Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks make me happy. Meeting a friend for coffee makes me happy. And, finishing writing my book will definitely make me happy!
Joy, on the other hand, is not the same as happiness. According to author Tim Hansel in his book, You Gotta Keep Dancin’,”happiness is a feeling, joy is an attitude.”
He goes on to say, “(joy is) . . . A posture. A position. A place.”
Wow. That hit me like a ton of bricks.
If joy is an attitude, what is my posture? What is my position? What is my place?
Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life. ~Paul Sailhamer
Like love, joy is not simply a feeling or an emotion. It is so much more. It is a choice.
In the Greek, joy is translated more specifically as gladness or delight.
And, according to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, delight means, a high degree of gratification of mind. In other words, satisfaction.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Then there is this curious verse in Hebrews.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
How could enduring the cross be considered joy?
One commentary I read said the word joy in this context is referring to the joy of Christ’s accomplished purpose and the glory with which He was crowned.
The joy that Christ is talking about could be His knowing. Knowing that He created a way for salvation; knowing that this one event offered hope to the world; knowing that God’s purposes were being fulfilled.
He wasn’t looking forward to the insults and mobs crying out for His death. He wasn’t looking forward to the flogging and the crown of thorns. He wasn’t looking forward to being hung on a cross.
But, it was the joy set before Him.
Could my joy be in the knowing? Could my joy be knowing that I have been given life when I deserve death? Could my joy be knowing that Christ has made a way for me? Could my joy be knowing that He is preparing a place for me in glory?
Joy is simple (not to be confused with easy). At any moment in life we have at least two options, and one of them is to choose an attitude of gratitude, a posture of grace, a commitment to joy. ~You Gotta Keep Dancin’
Could it be that I am joyful? Could it be that I can take that off the list of things to beat myself up about?
I am filled with gladness and I do delight in the Lord. I am overwhelmed with the magnitude of what was accomplished on the cross. I am immensely grateful for the redeeming power of grace that I have been freely given. And I feel the Holy Spirit working in me.
I know Him who saved me. Therefore, I have joy.
Do I feel happy and wonderful most of the time? No. Life is hard. God makes it clear in scripture that it will be. But, do I have joy? Maybe I do.
As a follower of Christ, I can see the big picture. God has given it to us in His Holy Word. And I know the joy that awaits me.
So maybe God put joy second on the list of the fruit of the spirit on purpose. Love and joy are the greatest gifts from the Father. Because if we know Him, we will have joy.
Joy is in the knowing.