If you grew up in the church, you might remember singing a certain song when you were little: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!” I always loved that song as a child, but it kind of fell by the wayside as I got older. It stopped being something I took seriously. But you know what I’ve realized lately? It isn’t just a cutesy song for kids. I think it should be for you and me right now! A friend of mine was recently talking about the concept of joy, and it got me thinking. We’re told several times throughout scripture to find our joy in God, but I know I don’t always do that. How many of us really do have the joy down in our hearts? I have to admit that I’m not always very joyful. Are you?
I want to start by saying that there is a huge difference between happiness and joy. A lot of people equate them, but they’re not the same! Happiness is temporary and contingent on outward circumstances. Joy sticks around and can’t be destroyed by outside forces because it comes from the Holy Spirit inside of us. If you won a brand new car, you’d probably be happy about it. But anything could come along and snatch that happiness away from you. If you wrecked that car, you wouldn’t be so happy anymore, would you? Joy, though, is different. Joy is being able to go through the wringer in life and not be destroyed. Joy is knowing how much God loves and cares for you and fully trusting him to take care of you. That’s something that can’t be destroyed by life’s circumstances. Joy isn’t about you being glad because your life is perfect and problem-free. Joy is about remembering what Jesus has done for you and resting in his love regardless of the storms of life.
Well, hey. That sounds awesome! So how do we go about getting that joy? The first step is to walk with the Lord. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). That means that if you’re walking in stride with God and maintaining a right relationship with him, joy will be one of the natural byproducts. The more time you spend with him, the more joy will be present in your life! In John 15, Jesus tells us that he is the vine, and we are the branches. He explains that we can’t do anything without him and that we need to abide in his love. My favorite part of this passage is when he says that in the same way and the same amount that God loves him, he loves us, too. (Isn’t that amazing?!) He finishes by saying, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 ESV). He’s telling us that our joy, which is given to us by him, will be complete if we are abiding in him. It’s an equation. Relationship with Jesus + resting entirely in his love = joy. It’s that simple to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy to be joyful. Life can throw us for a loop sometimes. Unexpected and upsetting problems can come along and make it hard for us to find the joy. So what do we do then? First, we need to remember that joy is not an emotion. We can feel hurt, betrayed, sad, angry, or whatever else but still have joy. We just need to look for the silver joy lining, so to speak. James 1:2-4 tells us to consider it joy when we are going through trials because those trials help to make us stronger and build our faith up. Negative emotions can come in and obscure the joy, but it isn’t lost forever – we just have to uncover it again. We can do that by remembering the promise in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). We might not be able to see anything good about the circumstances we’re in. But we can rediscover the joy that’s been hidden by remembering that God works everything, including whatever tough thing we’re going through, for our good in the end. He uses trials to make us stronger. That’s our silver joy lining. We know that we will come out better on the other side of whatever we’re experiencing.
Joy is also being able to be peaceful in the midst of a storm. Yes, we can still feel all of those not-so-fun emotions I mentioned before, but we don’t have to let them run our lives. Nehemiah 8:10 says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. When we have that joy (which encompasses the realization of how precious we are to God) we are able to have peace because we know he will take care of us. We are able to rest in his love and understand that he will carry us through and not abandon us. Truly realizing that we are in the palm of his hand and close to his heart will bring us joy, and from that joy comes strength in the form of peace and total reliance on the Lord.
Friends, I hope you will grab hold of the joy that the Lord is offering to you. You – yes, you! – can have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart just like the song says, no matter what is going on in your life. Walk in relationship with him. Remember just how loved you are. Realize just how big your God is. He cares so immensely for you and can do anything. That sentence right there brings me joy! I know that I want a joy-filled life for myself. I want you to have one, too, so I’m going to leave you with a verse that I am praying for each and every person who reads this devotional. Romans 15:13 (ESV) – “May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.” Amen!