For many of us, the last several years have been filled with fear and trepidation. We’ve had a lot to deal with, a lot of unrest and a lot of uncertainty. We seem to have lost a bit of our joy along the way, and some would ask how can we not expect that to happen.
But the Bible talks about what God expects of Christians when we’re going through trials, and it’s not to hunker down in our bunkers and watch the world burn. God expects us to go out and meet the world through those trials, but our attitudes are to be different. God expects us to greet the trials with – Joy – Rejoicing.
What is Joy?
Joy? How can we be seriously looking at having joy in times like these? And yet that is exactly what God says He wants from us right now.
So with that in mind, shouldn’t we figure out what joy actually is and where it comes from? Is joy an emotion? Is it an expression? How do we put it into words or action?
Merriam-Webster defines joy as:
1 a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : DELIGHT
b: the expression or exhibition of such emotion : GAIETY
2: a state of happiness or felicity : BLISS
3: a source or cause of delight
Joy, real joy, is not the same thing as just being excited during a worship song. Making a joyful noise is a good thing, but it is not the ONLY thing. Joy is so much more then that.
The Joy of the Lord
In our churches today, we have seemed to link the two – excitement and joy. I think this paints too narrow a picture of what the joy of the Lord actually is.
The Bible also says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
Other verses about joy have it paired with peace from God, meditating in God’s presence, holding on to God’s presence through trials, as well as being filled with joyful expressions in praise and worship.
So what is real joy then?
Is joy an emotion? Does an emotion have to be loud in order for it to be impactful?
Can a joyful noise also be quiet? Contemplative?
We are told to be joyful as Christians. (Philippians 3:1)
A Joyful Example
In the early church, we see several examples of apostles being imprisoned for their faith, and still singing and praising God during the trial. They were not swayed by their external circumstances. Joy was present, evident in them even as they waited for rescue from God.
Being joyful is a command to us, and it is not at all about being loud or making a lot of noise.
Joy can be seen in the faithful waiting of Paul and Silas as they sang in a jail cell. (Acts 16:35)
But joy can also be found simply upon waking up in the morning after a night of sorrow. (Psalm 30:5)
Where Does The Joy of the Lord Come From?
How do we keep joy in our hearts? Where does joy come from?
1 Peter 1:4 …an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…
Keep in mind what awaits us as Christians in Heaven – an eternal place with Christ. Joy is found in thinking on heavenly things, the reward that awaits us after the trials, the presence of God.
Joy comes in remembering our eternal security in Christ…that no one can take us from our Heavenly Father, nothing can snatch us from His hand. Having that knowledge of our security opens us up to the joy of the Lord.
Notice how many times the Bible associates rejoicing with enduring tribulation. Joy isn’t about being comfortable and enjoying blessings. Joy is found in the strength God has given us to endure the trials of life. Think of real trials. The early Christians were going through trials unlike anything most of us have experienced. Yet they were calling to each other to rejoice – to be joyful.
The act of being upheld by God through a trial brings joy into our hearts if we let it.
Quenching the Joy of the Lord
Can we quench joy then?
I would say yes, we can.
By being critical. By being negative. By thinking of the trial more than the strength. By focusing on the things of the world rather than the things of God. These actions will degrade our joy and turn it into mourning.
Lift up your eyes, Christian, and rejoice for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
You and I can either safeguard the joy in our hearts, or we can destroy it. As being joyful is a command from God, we know it is up to us to obey.
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So how do you keep the joy of the Lord in your heart now?