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What does the Bible say about joy?

By Julia Fetherston
joy fruit of the spirit

The Spirit of joy

One of the fruits of the Spirit, joy is a large part of our walk with Christ. Because of that, we need to look critically at our understanding of joy. Fruits of the Spirit are often misunderstood, and joy might be the most misunderstood of the bunch.

God is the author of joy

What does the Bible say about joy? First, we need to step back and look at how we understand God.

When we think of God, we view Him as many different things—a somber judge, a righteous king, a loving father—but we seldom think of Him as joyful. Yet He is! We know God found joy within His Creation when He declared it good, and we’re told of unspeakable joy in Heaven whenever a sinner comes to know Him.

Even in moments where God must exercise judgment, His joy always prevails since it’s intrinsically part of His nature. Psalm 30:5 (NLT) says, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

But more than just exhibiting joy, the mere presence of God produces joy because God is our joy. Romans 15:13 (ESV) reveals the secret to receiving this joy: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” God is the supplier of joy, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have access.

Joy vs happiness

When we think of joy, it conjures up images of celebration, jubilance, and excitement. We see joy as a synonym for happiness—an emotion brought about by circumstances—but there’s often a disconnect when we think about biblical joy.

God’s joy comes through finding pleasure and contentment through Jesus rather than our circumstances. As Jesus reminds us in John 16:22 (ESV), “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” God is our joy, which means our joy doesn’t depend on the world. Our joy can’t be taken from us!

Look at the apostles who suffered great persecution, even jailed for extended periods of time, yet they found joy regardless of their circumstances. 1 Peter 1:3-6 speaks of a living hope and inheritance waiting for us in heaven through the resurrection of Christ, and reminds us, “In this you rejoice, though … you have been grieved by various trials.”

We find our joy and rest from God, even if our circumstances aren’t great. Happiness is fleeting, but God’s joy is eternal. It’s a mindset, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a choice—a choice independent of emotions and life circumstances.

What circumstances call for joy?

Which circumstances do we need to have joy? All of them, and it’s harder than you think! However, it’s imperative to source our joy from God because life doesn’t always provide it. Regardless of what we might be facing, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NIV) commands us to “Rejoice always.”

Rejoice when you are blessed

This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the blessing we forget to acknowledge God. As James 1:17 says, all blessings and gifts come from above—from God. When good things come our way, when we’re encouraged, when we’re loved, and when we’re given affection, we’re meant to worship and rejoice.

“We find our joy and rest from God, even if our circumstances aren’t great. Happiness is fleeting, but God’s joy is eternal. It’s a mindset, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a choice—a choice independent of emotions and life circumstances.”

Rejoice through struggles

As difficult as it can be, we’re called to rejoice even through painful circumstances. Throughout Scripture, there are many examples of choosing joy through affliction. Christians persecuted for their faith are commended for their joy amidst adversity across the New Testament. Paul, stuck in jail, wrote 2 Corinthians 7:4 (ESV): “In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.”

Even when we’re dealing with temptation and struggling with sin, we’re still called to rejoice. James 1:2-3 tell us to “count it all joy” when we hit hard times because we know God is refining us through our struggles.

The best example of rejoicing in the midst of bad circumstances is Jesus, who took on the pain and suffering of the cross for us. Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) says, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” He knew there was joy even in the tremendous pain He endured.

Rejoice when you have need

It’s probably the most difficult to rejoice in God when we’re in need. Whether those needs are physical, emotional, or spiritual, it’s hard to feel God’s blessing when we’re lacking in one or more areas. Yet, we’re still called to rejoice.

Though Israel was going through a famine, Habakkuk declared, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV). Even if our basic needs aren’t met or we don’t know where our next meal is coming from, we’re still called to rejoice in the Lord.

Rejoicing in God during times of need produces peacePhilippians 4:4 and 9 (ESV) says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” If we’re in a spirit of rejoicing and giving thanks, our hearts will be at peace. God is our provider, and if we have confidence in that, we have no reason to fear.

We may not have the answers to our various circumstances, but we can rejoice and have faith in the Lord. Rest in the Lord, let His joy fill you, and be at peace. Joy isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth the effort.

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Julia Fetherston
Julia is a writer and storyteller with a passion to inspire others to live out the truths of the gospel. Her out-of-the-box thinking provides a unique perspective on biblical truth, and her mission is to relate those truths back to others.