At the age of 38, I became a mother for the first time. While this is not rare in our time, it was a whole new world for me. What my husband and I had longed for and prayed for over the course of our 11 years of marriage, the Lord graciously blessed us with in His sovereign timing. With all I had amazingly been blessed with, I still found myself wondering how to “feel” joy in my new life amidst the everyday routine of endless diaper changes and bottle washes, the unpredictable sleep and the bewildering cries — not to mention the mire of laundry, dirty dishes and floors, along with messy bathrooms — all left until who knows when…
I imagine this struggle is not so different for women in many places in life, whether they have unexpected health issues, an overwhelming new job, or desire to put others first when struggling with pride and self-centeredness in various relationships.
So, how do we have a truly joyful life in Christ in our everyday lives? How do we maintain that joy in our daily walk with Christ? For us to try to live a joyful life, it helps to have an accurate view of what joy is, as well as what it is not.
What Exactly Is Joy?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, joy is defined as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires” or “a state of happiness or felicity.” Though this may well be the world’s definition of joy, as we look at the Word of God, we discover quite a different view of this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.
Joy is mentioned throughout the Old and New Testaments numerous times. We see that not only does the Lord put joy in our hearts (Psalm 4:7) and make us joyful (Psalm 21:6), but we are also told to rejoice (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16), and even how to rejoice in the Lord (“sing” in Psalm 5:11, 47:1, 67:4; “shout” in Psalm 20:5, 32:11, 33:1, 35:27). In the Book of Psalms, there are many instances of “the righteous” or “upright in heart” praising the Lord and giving thanks (Psalm 95:2) to Him with joyfulness. We are told that the righteous and those who seek Him should be glad in Him and rejoice in Him (Psalm 32:11, 40:16).
The Holman Bible Dictionary defines biblical joy as “the happy state that results from knowing and serving God.” However, a better definition might be “the confident and blessed state that results from knowing and serving God.” So, while the Lord obviously bestows this gift to us, we see that we are also responsible to some degree in what we do with it and in directing our rejoicing to our faithful God.
What Joy Is Not
Biblically speaking, joy is not defined by someone’s personality, emotions, or situation in life. There are many people in the world who seem energetic, charismatic, and capable. Some individuals seem to never get up on the wrong side of the bed or get overwhelmed by stressful situations; they seem to always be relaxed, calm, and at ease. Then, there are those who seem to have all they need regarding comfort, wealth, and health. They don’t seem to be in conflict with others and appear not to struggle to obtain anything.
In contrast to the dictionary’s definition of joy, looking at God’s Word, it is evident that joy is not based on what we get or obtain. Repeatedly in the Word, we see godly men and women endure trials, pain, mistreatment, and lack of personal finances or material possessions. Yet, we see these people persevere and rely on Christ for their sustenance. They show true joy and encourage others to “Rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-16) and to count their trials and sufferings as JOY (James 1:2-3)! Many of our Biblical heroes were persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, stoned, etc. So, clearly, their joy was not based on positive social interactions or any success on their part.
Today, we looked at the contrast between the world’s view of joy and what the true meaning of Biblical joy should be in the Christian’s life. As believers, our foundation is the Bible, and It applies to every area of our life. This means that as we spend time with the Lord and in His Word, the Holy Spirit will help us to recognize areas in our life that may be keeping us from true joy in Christ. Tomorrow, we will look at just a few ways that our joy can be hindered, as well as some practical steps to encourage our joy in The Lord.