– a feeling, source, or cause of great happiness
– success in doing, finding, or getting something
So the official dictionary definition of joy focuses around feeling happy because of something you do, find, or receive. Personally, I think joy is much deeper than that.
I’ve thought about this a lot lately because Scripture says…
Be joyful always. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
It doesn’t say when you are happy, when you do a good job, when you find something, or when you get something. It says always: ALWAYS.
If joy only comes when we are happy, doing, finding, or getting, then how are we supposed to be joyful, always?
I believe those are misconeptions of joy, thinking that we can only find joy in the good times. True joy has a much deeper meaning.
I have some dear friends who are doing a wonderful job of checking in on me and making sure I’m doing okay, who have committed to loving me unconditionally, through the good and the bad. I often, jokingly call them my “babysitters.” Most days, it’s still hard to accept or allow them into my life. You see, until maybe 6 months ago, I didn’t let people in. Sure, I had friends…and I love people dearly, but I’ve worked hard to keep everyone at arms length or further…even those I would call my dearest friends. They simply weren’t allowed past the walls I had created. In recent months, I have slowly started learning to trust and accept people and let them in…S-L-O-W-L-Y!
So these ladies who check in with me…they call or text, “How are you?” I could choose to fall back on my old standard of “I’m okay,” keeping them at a distance like I always have. But this year, I have learned that isn’t helpful. If I’m being honest, I could easily respond the same each time, “Life is hard. It hurts.” And sometimes, that’s exactly how I respond. Other times, I don’t want to respond that way because I am tired of not being okay. Sometimes, I just want to be okay. I want to be that person who makes others smile, brings joy into their lives, and wears that happy face. Sometimes, I am that person. But truthfully, none of us can ever be her all of the time. There are times when we’re simply not okay and you know what, that’s okay! (Learning that didn’t come quick and there are moments I have to remind myself “it’s okay to not be okay” – thanks Perry Noble for that sermon and quote!)
When I respond with, “I’m okay,” it’s not always a lie. I used to think I was such a liar because that was my go-to answer with everyone, never actually considering how I really felt. I did everything possible to wear the “okay mask” at all times. Again, I didn’t let people in and order to keep them out, I had to never rely on or need anyone. In order to not need them, I had to be “okay.”
This got me thinking about joy. No matter how I am feeling, how close to the bottom I’ve hit, how dark my world has become, I still feel joy. In moments when I’m filled with pain, sorrow, consumed by fear, worry, circumstances, plagued with nightmares, left with little hope, yes, even in those moments, there is joy.
So what is joy?
Joy isn’t just a smile. It’s not just happiness over something you’ve done or been given. Joy is so much more. Joy comes when we least expect and yet it’s always there. There is always a reason to be joyful. We can find joy in the best and worst of circumstances.
Joy in our children…
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
Joy in the morning…
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8
Joy in trials, trouble, weakness, sorry, grief…
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James: 1:2-3
Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
When anxiety was great within me, your comfort brought me joy. Psalm 94:19
In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. 2 Corinthians 7:4
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5
Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 63:7
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:12
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:10-11
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory [joy] that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
Joy in hope, knowledge, and peace…
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. John 16:24 (NASB)
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 an inexpressible and glorious joy. 1 Peter 1:8
Joy in sharing the Good News…
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12
Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Proverbs 15:30
Joy in Christ…
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
The LORD has done amazing things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3
When you look at those verses, it’s clear there is always a reason for joy, always an opportunity to find joy, from the best of times to even the most difficult. Searching through to find verses about joy, this one seemed to sum it best. I believe this is true joy…
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:2-11
I used the NIV Life Application Study Bible. In reference to the verses above, my Bible states…
“In addition to drawing people closer to Christ, suffering can also help them grow in their faith. God uses suffering to improve his people and shape them into better Christians. In fact, suffering should be thought of as the necessary pain that accompanies spiritual growth. In Romans, Paul noted that suffering produces perseverance, which, in turn produces Christian character (Romans 5:3, 4).
Depending on God is a realization of our own powerlessness without him and our need for his constant touch in our lives. God is our source of power, and we receive His help by keeping in touch with Him. With this attitude of dependance, problems will drive us to God rather than away from Him.” NIV Life Application Study Bible
Most of my life, I have constantly tried to win the battles of life on my own. I turned away from God because my beliefs were that I was unworthy of His love, that He could never care about me or see me of any value. I was too damaged and broken to be used by God. Why would He want to know me? And I had a history with God. I had cried out to Him time after time, begging Him to save me from the hell I was in. I felt my prayers went unanswered. Again, I felt unworthy, unacceptable, damaged, and broken.
What I have learned through the past few years is that God chooses me. He is using me. He is using all my brokenness to help others, to pull me out of this darkness and draw me closer to Him, to open my eyes to who He really is, and to realize His true character. No one on this earth lives a life without hurt and pain. We all suffer. We all understand loss, grief, hurt, and pain. It doesn’t matter what you believe, if you believe in God or not, you still know and have experienced or will experience hurt and pain in your lifetime. We cannot escape it. It is a part of life. But joy can also be part of life. I can honestly say that joy has filled my life in the darkest moments and when I needed it most…
In my best attempts to be honest, I admit the struggles lately have been huge. Last year, I battled many occasions when death seemed like the best option, yet here I am, alive. Some days, I don’t really feel like I’m living, but in those moments, what keeps me going is most often a verse I’ve clung to over the past year. I’ve drowned myself in God’s word. Admittedly, I’m horrible at memorizing Scripture but I can tell you that at just the right times, God’s word has spoken loud and clear. In those moments, I find joy. There is joy in knowing that God hears me in the best of times and in my deepest, darkest, most painful times. He uses His word to remind me that I am not alone, that He cares, He grieves with me and for me, He has greater plans, there is a purpose for my life. He offers the same to anyone willing to receive Him. It’s our choice.
My heart aches for those who suffer alone…because I’ve been there and I’ve been in that place without hope and without joy. My prayer for you is that you find joy in all your moments, from the best to the worst.
Joy in a new baby. Joy is a smile, instant love.
Joy in a good job or steady paycheck. Joy is dependable.
Joy in a roof over your head and food on the table. Joy is comfort.
Joy in the smile of child. Joy is precious.
Joy in the attitude of a teenager. Joy is unconditional.
Joy in the wisdom of the elderly. Joy is irreplaceable.
Joy in the morning and at night. Joy is with us in the light and dark.
Joy in the valley and on the mountain. Joy has no boundaries.
Joy in the calm and in the storm. Joy is peace in the chaos.
Joy in the suffering because it produces perseverance. Joy is purpose.
Joy in depression because there’s still a glimmer of hope. Joy is hope.
Joy in cancer because you’re strong enough to fight. Joy is strength.
Joy in death because it’s a new beginning. Joy is life…even in death.
What are your thoughts?
What does joy mean to you?
Where do you find your joy?
Do you feel you are able to find joy in all circumstances or only in the good times?