Joy: As Defined in Christianity

Joy is a common theme in Christ’s teachings – He wants us to be joyful. The key to immeasurable joy is living in intimate contact with Jesus, the source of all joy. 

In a world full of pain and suffering, how do you find joy?

Joy is the most wanted emotion in the human experience. Anyone can find this feeling when seeing their friends, eating their favorite food, shopping, passing exams, laughing at jokes, or simply enjoying life with loved ones. I admit, many times, I feel like joy is fleeting. This feeling can also leave you during trials, leaving you feeling hopeless. 

It’s easy to get discouraged about unpleasant circumstances or to take unimportant events too seriously. If you haven’t been joyful lately, you may not be looking at life from the right perspective. 

What is the Biblical Definition of Joy?

Many philosophers and great thinkers surmise that life is a never-ending search for joy. Indeed, you and I constantly look for things to make us happy, to fill our desires. More often than not, most of the things we do leave us feeling unfulfilled and hungry for joy. Scientifically speaking, the ache for joy is hardwired into our system. 

The biblical definition of joy means that good pleasure and happiness are all rooted in God. As the popular worship song goes, “Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are…” Joy comes from the Holy Spirit, in God’s Holy presence, and especially from His Word.

It may be confusing, but this is joy in its truth. Biblical joy is not something that comes from the best times but the opposite. It can be found in the hardest and most turbulent moments. If the joy that you know is temporary and only for the best moments in life, biblical joy is the kind of joy that is given to everyone and accessible even in the worst times. This joy is everlasting and can never be taken away from us. The Old Testament and the New Testament attest to this truth:

Old Testament

According to the Old Testament, joy is derived from any unexpected or unanticipated situations. Some examples are those biblical stories where God is also represented in common experiences. In understanding joy in the Old Testament, one must look back to the history of the life and events in the ancient Israelites’ lives.

In Psalm 16:9, David’s heart was glad – he had found the secret to joy. True joy is far deeper than happiness; we can feel joy despite our deepest troubles. As we contemplate God’s daily presence, we will find contentment. As we understand the future He has for us, we will experience joy. Base life not on circumstances, but God. 

New Testament

In the stories of the New Testament, joy is dependent on God, for He is the only and endless source of joy. One example is the joy in the Virgin Mary’s Magnificat. All of her being sings of the new life in Christ. Her spirit soars on the wings of the Lord. Here, joy is associated with re-birth and rejoicing for the new coming of Jesus.

What is Joy in the Bible?

Biblical joy means different things. As mentioned earlier, the Old Testament and New Testament definitions of joy vary. This is because the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. On the other hand, the New Testament authors primarily wrote in Greek.

In Hebrew

The meaning of joy in Hebrew is derived from samach [‘saw-makh’], which means to rejoice. Then there is sason [saw-sone’], which means exaltation or rejoicing. 

In Greek

In Greek, the meaning of joy is derived from ‘chara’, which refers to inner gladness. It leads to a cheerful heart and character. 

Putting these two definitions together, the Scriptures show joy as the everlasting gladness of heart that comes from knowing and living in God. Worldly joy is fleeting, based on circumstances, but biblical joy brings hope, strength, and contentment always.

What is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?

Do joy and happiness have the same meaning? These feelings may seem interchangeable but they mean different things.

Joy is in the heart; happiness is on the face. Joy is of the spirit; happiness exists apart from everything else. Joy rises above; happiness responds. Joy accepts harmony and happiness holds on to be found. 

Joy runs profound and floods, while happiness embraces. Joy is training and conduct; it’s purposeful and deliberate. Happiness goes back and forth gaily along its way. Joy is significant and Scriptural and it tells you to rejoice amidst sorrow and stop the worry. 

Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. Joy is an internal inclination; happiness is an overt gesture. Joy suffers difficulty, preliminaries, and interfaces with significance and reason. An individual seeks happiness yet opts for joy.

Joy is something grander than happiness. Happiness is temporary because it is based on external circumstances, but joy is lasting because it is based on God’s presence within us (Psalm 16:9).

What Defines Real Joy?

Biblical joy, which is present even in the darkest days of our lives, shows real joy. You see, joy is more than positive feelings and ecstasy. It cannot be faked because this is a sincere and profound experience. You can pretend all you want but you can’t get this pure feeling if you don’t commit to God.

Real joy, in its fullest, eternal, and deepest sense, carries God’s communicated goodness. It is a profound and enlivened happiness provided for us by God because He loves us and He sustains us.

The Bible says God brings joy and harmony. Genuine satisfaction comes from God and is your own for eternity. The delight that is found in God’s essence is not static. It changes and recovers us. Real joy is always with us, through our Immanuel.

What is the Importance of Biblical Joy?

Biblical joy is as important as God’s presence in our lives because God is our happiness. Without biblical joy, we are left with no choice but to just depend on the unknown circumstances in life just to feel temporarily happy. 

Yes, this joy may fulfill the lack temporarily, but biblical joy gives everlasting love, peace, and joy. It is irreplaceable. We can hold on to it no matter what is currently happening in our lives. It can not be found elsewhere other than in a relationship with Jesus.

God shows that we can be in heaven with Him for eternity. That even while you are still living, you live with the Holy Spirit, showing us the joy you need to live a worthwhile life. So biblical joy is valuable beyond comparison – it comes from the grace of God.

Examples of Joy in the Bible

Biblical joy is God’s way of telling us that He is always with us. We belong to Him and we shall trust in Him for every trial that we are facing, that nothing compared to the glory that is coming.

Joy is such an integral part of Christian life that it is a word that appears more than 100 times in the Scriptures. Joy manifests itself in many different forms:

The Joy of Knowing Jesus

Knowing Jesus is rejoicing in Him. But if you do not know who Jesus is, you cannot rejoice in the Lord. He only wants us to have a relationship with Him, so He sent the Holy Spirit for us. So you can always hear His voice and get to know Him better through God’s word. When you draw yourself closer to Him, you find real joy. He saves, heals, and shows you how to be content in any situation. 

The Joy in the Holy Spirit

Once you truly welcome Jesus and accept Him in your lives, you receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is here to guide into all grace and truth. We can remain in Him and abide in Him forever. Just like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is always with us. It is present like Jesus because this is God’s gift and His way to communicate to us.

The Disciples’ Joy

The disciples have experienced the hardest times of their lives as well. Instead of drowning, they were able to worship, listen and love Jesus more. They knew Jesus was with them all the time; they knew that Jesus was faithful. He is constant and never changing; He is selfless even to the point of sacrificing His life. He will always be the same Jesus that will give joy because of His love for us.

In Philippians 4:4, it seems strange that a man in prison would be telling a church to rejoice. But Paul’s attitude teaches us an important lesson: Our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances. Paul was full of joy because he knew that no matter what happened to him, Jesus Christ was with him.

The Joy from others

In both the Old and New Testament, you read about the joyful bonds of people of all walks of life. Joy blooms through one’s connections – in families, friends, and neighbors. Jesus Himself exemplified the greatest joy we can find from others – in serving them and loving them as much as we love ourselves. You will find this joy reciprocated by people choosing to share their blessings with you. 

For instance, there is joy in giving back to our community. I experienced this when I started donating a portion of my profit to give away Christmas baskets to people affected by the pandemic. This charity project came from a collaboration between my small business and my parish priest. I shared some of the blessings I received and tried to help them survive the pandemic. I realized that the feeling I got from doing this was different, more fulfilling, and even life-changing. It is something that cannot be taken away, both from me and the people I have helped. 

The Joy of Worship

Biblical joy can also be found when you put faith in God’s word. In Psalm 98, you see the expression of jubilant and joyful worship. Trumpets are blasting, joyful hands clapping, and joyous people singing and shouting for joy. We can do this every single day of our lives. In the simplest ways that come from your heart, you can truly bring honor and worship to God.

Sing worship songs with fervor and passion. In doing so, shout joy at the many things to be thankful for. Praise God and delight in His righteousness.

What Does the Bible Teach About Joy?

The Bible teaches us that joy comes from God, our Creator, and Father. It also tells us that joy is a choice that we are not obliged to take. But you must accept it in our lives like Jesus because when you do, you can look at your trials with joy. After all, that is when God’s purpose makes sense. Eventually, you become stronger and hopeful about joy even in the worst circumstances. You learn to trust Him more, lean on His words and promises, and live with faith.

John 15:11 teaches us that true joy transcends the rolling waves of circumstance. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The Bible simply lets us realize that biblical joy is enduring. It endures all things, just like what Jesus did for the sake of His undying love to us. Because of Him, we are saved from sin and death. Jesus’ sacrifice is the greatest gift of the joy of all. 

How Can We Find Joy in our Life?

The Bible teaches us many stories of real people’s brokenness and hardships in the hardest, darkest, and most chaotic times of their lives. Spiritual leaders from the clergy and laity also attest to the existence of joy as they praise and embolden congregations to find joy in God. 

You find joy in life when you choose God and know His Words. He sent the Holy Spirit to help you find true and lasting joy. The key to finding true joy is building and nurturing a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. Then you choose joy, practice, and share this blessing with others. Feel His joy filling you up eternally.

Final Thoughts

Joy may seem like an elusive dream but it is possible. Ultimate joy comes from Christ dwelling within us.

We are capable of responding to life’s hardest trials with genuine joy if we are aware and we accept that the Lord has a purpose for everything. We can find joy in the darkest times because this is the time that we choose joy. This is a choice that teaches us that the Lord is the true originator of our true joy. We cannot produce it or drum it up on our own, but we have to understand it and let it come to us like God.

Remember that even while suffering, you can choose to look at life with joy. The joy of living with Jesus Christ daily will keep us levelheaded, no matter how high or low our circumstances. Look towards God and trust in His divine grace.

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Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.

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