I do have some difficult times so often with the defining of the word JOY. I have been riding it like a roller coaster up and down, round and round, off and on for many years. I’m coming to almost believe I might just be obsessed with the subject. I simply can’t let it go.
There have been many times I was convinced I had it decisively to my satisfaction, then zzzip it escapes like a wild canary into the far blue sky. And that because of a new insight into an unrelated subject. Writing about it could possibly end someday, but if it doesn’t…. It will always remain an enigma to somebody, methinks.
Shall we endeavor to define biblical joy? I will begin and hope to glean more from a fresh perspective. It may be akin to peeling an artichoke. But artichokes have fresh layers to be discovered, as well.
Joy invests itself in the security that can be known by the assuredness of hope’s object, though not yet fulfilled. (See Romans 5:1-5)
[25 different Hebrew words and 10 Greek words make up over 150 references to joy in the Bible. Reference: NKJV Search Results for “Joy” (blueletterbible.org)] This may explain why it is so difficult to define in a single stroke.
Joy is a positive outlook of hopefulness based upon a pervasive, overall sense of well-being.
Joy, like love, has a “feeling” component that is pleasant. Yet joy, like love, is not a feeling.
Joy maintains a positive posture in life that assumes that good will be supported and eventually triumph over any apparent obstacle.
Therefore, joy is fully compatible with the experiences of pain, disappointment, or sorrow, because joyfulness always takes a wider view of circumstances and works with hope to expect good to prevail.
Joy enables patience, faithfulness to commitments, and the all-important ability to defer instant gratification.
Joy gives one the ability to say no, or perhaps a very firm “not yet,” to the immediacy of desire.
Both responses are evidence of joy’s ability to overcome the tyranny of the urgent, since one is joyful with the present state of affairs, whatever that may be.
The bearing of joy on the good life should be obvious.
It is indispensable to steady contentment and perseverance in any task.
Joy liberates from the demand or temptation of immediate satisfaction, which resists waiting for what is good or best.
Accordingly, joy is the best platform from which to make any sound investment. –Dallas Willard
“I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy”, and “I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure.
Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”
If asked to define joy, most people would give a word similar to gladness, such as happiness, contentment, or delight. These words define the emotion of joy, none reflect the source of the emotion.
This author(?) and minister, S.D. Gordon, does a good job explaining why joy is uniquely defined, and how it differs from happiness:
“Joy is distinctly a Christian word and a Christian thing. It is the reverse of happiness. Happiness is the result of what happens of an agreeable sort. Joy has its springs deep down inside. And that spring never runs dry, no matter what happens. Only Jesus gives that joy. He had joy, singing its music within, even under the shadow of the cross.”
I like that one.
A few suggestions and hints of joy by list:
Do you love the Lord with your whole being? Joy is present.
Do you trust the Lord for completion of your salvation, though feeling doubtful at the moment? Joy is present.
Do you have a sense of well-being knowing the Lord has just snatched you from the jaws of death and given you life? Joy is there.
Are you in a position of feeling unable to pray except for listening to your own heart beating? Your beating heart is the joy of the Lord.
My point is if the Lord is with you, whatever the life circumstances, joy is an integral, inseparable fact of God’s presence.
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
Where the Lord is His joy accompanies Him, for He is our strength!