A hard run with reckless abandon through a puddle brings a smile to my dogs face and a twinkle to his eye. There is a distinct sense of pleasure and happiness exuded when he runs in a muddy field chasing other dogs, the end result being fur covered in dirt! Anytime I see my dog frolicking through snow or tearing up in sand, I tell my husband, “That is what joy looks like personified!”.
Although in reality joy can’t bee seen, it is declared all over the pages of the Bible. Psalm 16:11 tells us that fullness of joy is found in the presence of God. Psalm 51:12 makes it clear that joy is something God can restore to us, therefore, it must be something that can be lost. We are told to count it all joy when we fall into various trials (James 1:2). The very kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
What Is Joy?
Joy is not tangible and yet, we know it exists. It is something the world longs for, yet is out of reach. But what is joy? Where does it come from and how do I attain it?
A succinct quote by John Piper explains joy this way…
“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the world and in the word.”
For me, a sense of joy comes when I am most aware of God’s presence and power in my life. Whether I am walking in God’s enabling power in the midst of a trial or realizing the forgiveness of sin and the gift of salvation, joy bubbles up as the Holy Spirit works in my life, helping me to see Christ clearly.
Yes, joy is a feeling, an emotion, but it can’t be manufactured. I can’t be persuaded into feeling joy or talk myself into it. Unlike happiness, which comes and goes depending upon the circumstances, joy isn’t dependent upon life being perfect and yet it is a command no matter what life brings!
Joy In My Suffering
Surprisingly, some of the times I have most clearly felt joy were the more difficult times in my life. In the midst of suffering, when truth is brought back to my remembrance and applied to my situation by the Holy Spirit, there is a real feeling of joy at having “heard” the voice of God. In these situations, a deep sense of gratitude and peace from the Lord overwhelmed my heart, such that it didn’t matter where I was or how I was suffering. I saw Jesus clearly in that moment and nothing else mattered.
Joy In God’s Working
Other times I distinctly feel joy include witnessing God’s work in the life of another person.
- Whether it is sharing the gospel and watching light and life come to a person
- Whether it is praying for a person and knowing the Holy Spirit was at work through that prayer
- Whether it is hearing another’s testimony of God’s working in their life or
- Taking communion & witnessing baptism, knowing centuries of Christians have done the same thing in remembrance of Christ
All of these situations cause me to be acutely aware of and thankful for the fact that God is still actively at work in this world. Jesus is alive and the Holy Spirit is making Him known in my life, around my life and through my life. He is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. What joy it is to be a part of God’s unfolding story throughout all of history! What joy it is to see the beauty of my Savior!
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.