What do you think of when you hear the word joy? Do you think of the moment when something in your life went right? It can be anything, big or small, from getting that job or into that school, all the way to finding $5 in your pocket you did not know about. It is these fleeting moments that come and go, lighting up our lives for a moment before it burns out and we go seeking the next one. This is actually happiness, which is different than joy. Happiness is temporary, coming from our surroundings, while joy is eternal, coming from a heavenly source.
The theologian and pastor, John Piper, defines joy as the movement of the soul brought on by the Holy Spirit causing us to see Christ in every situation. We were created to be in union with God, and so when we are reconciled and walking with Him, we can find true joy, even in dark situations. In James 1, the author tells his brothers and sisters in Christ to consider it pure joy when we face trials, because these tests produce perseverance and growth in Christ.
Just as God calls us to love, He also commands us to have joy. In Philippians 4:4, it says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” God does not say just be joyful when you feel like it, when your heart is on a spiritual high. We are supposed to rejoice always.
Joy does not come naturally. We cannot summon it on our own. It is a reaction to our situation that only comes when we seek God and ask Him for it. When we walk in the Spirit, we begin to bear his fruit. The more we spend time with others, the more we become like them. We reflect God’s love joy when we grow closer to Him. This stays with us through the good times and the bad, as we continue to be assured of our hope and security in Him. In this life, we will have the trials, the struggles, the dark moments. Mike Donehey, lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, pens it well in his song the Struggle. “We are free to struggle, but we’re not struggling to be free.” While our path in life will have dark moments, we know that, no matter what happens, our hope and joy is secure in Christ. Whatever is bothering us, though important and relevant to our lives, is not all there is. At the end of the day we know our final stand, and can take joy in the fact that we walk with the Lord.
Joy is choosing to place our affections in Christ above all else. Joy is the delight in our hearts that comes from hope in Christ. While we may not always feel like it, Christians have the task to keep choosing God and seeking after Him.