Most of us know what it is to be happy. A warm hug, a new piece of clothing, a grandchild, a trip, a gadget or a good plate of food can all put a smile on our faces.
Happiness is defined as the feeling of being happy or pleased. Joy is defined as a feeling of strong or great happiness. It seems linguistically that joy is the extreme form of happiness. In some circles there seems to be a notion that happiness is more carnal and fleeting and triggered by external events, and that joy is more internal and spiritual but quite frankly, I do not see substantiation for such a claim. In fact, The Bible urges us to be glad, merry, happy, and joyous and the terms are often used interchangeably. It is true that when happiness or joy is triggered by an external event, it can be fleeting, and it usually lasts until something happens which displeases us. The most vivid example of happiness appearing and then disappearing is a 4-year-old who had just received an ice cream, only to be told he must pass it to his sister and wait for his turn. Happiness can be defined as that which puts a smile on your dial.
This is easy enough when life is all that you think it should be, but the reality is, more often than not, it isn’t. There are constant challenges in each of our lives, be it relational, financial, emotional or physical.
How then can we keep our joy?
Psalm 94:19. “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” The experience of being in the presence of God and hearing him speak to you through His Spirit and His Word, brings comfort. When you are in a relationship with God, He can actually console you to such an extent that your anxiety can change into joy.
Psalms 118:24. “This is the day that the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” A positive decision on our part to be joyful is entirely possible and Biblical. Joy depends largely on a decision we make to focus on God and His blessing in our lives.
Rom 15:13. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In this verse, we gain an understanding of where joy originates. The God of hope is able to fill you with joy and this seems to be the one great emotion people experience when they first meet Christ and experience His forgiveness and love. 1 Peter 1:8-9: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
The joy of the Lord is your strength
In the book of Nehemiah, the people were listening to the Word of God being read and explained and many of them were overcome by emotion as they heard the Word of God. Nehemiah urged the people not to weep but to rejoice. Here is the source of Christian strength, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength”. (Neh 8:10)
Neh 8:12 “ Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.”
Joy is an integral part of a Christian’s life. As we apply the principles of God’s Word, as we spend time in His presence, joy becomes part and parcel of who we are, regardless of where we are, who we are with and what we are facing. Rom 4:17 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Joy seems to be that ability to remain unperturbed by circumstances, to remain calm and hopeful even when things seem to be against us. As in the case of the 4-year-old, remaining calm and happy, knowing his turn for ice cream is not too far away. This implies a certain trust in the person who is giving him the ice cream, a certainty that he will be looked after. This type of trust is called faith. As Paul described it in Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Being aware of God’s faithfulness, of His love and of His grace enables us to be “joyful in hope” as Paul encouraged the Roman church in Rom 12:2 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” Please note that being joyful is not merely a by-product of something else, it is primarily a choice based on hope, and hope is based on the knowledge you have of God, His nature, His promises, and His redemptive plan and purpose for your life.
Whatever you are facing right now, please be encouraged by the words in Habakkuk 3:17-18 (AMP):
“Though the fig tree does not blossom, And there is no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive fails and the fields produce no food, Though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls. Yet I will choose to rejoice in the Lord; I will choose to shout in exultation in the victorious God of my salvation!”
PS: Please note, this choice is not a legalistic religious exercise, this is a result of understanding God’s character, heart, and love towards you.
May the joy of the Lord be your strength indeed!