Joy is a wonderful word that can be attributed to the feeling of pleasure and happiness. It is what people feel when they are in a really good mood.
In the Bible there were several words used to denote that feeling. In the ancient Hebrew Scriptures, you’d find words like śimchâh, śâśôn, gı̂yl…
In the New Testament, you’d find Greek words such as chara, euphrosýnē, agallíasis…
They all basically refer to the feeling of joy.
What does the Bible say about Joy? What did the ancient biblical authors have in mind when they wrote about Joy? This word is actually a key theme is that runs throughout the Bible.
Let’s get to it …
Where To Find Joy
This starts from the beginning. The earth was full of darkness and chaos until God set in through His Spirit began to create. He looked at His creation and saw that it was very good. This is where joy begins. People naturally find joy in the good things of life. Here are some examples found in the Scriptures:
Abundance of Flocks and Harvest
You have crowned the year with your bounty (goodness),
and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow,
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.
A bottle of wine can bring joy to people’s hearts
People can find joy at a wedding or marriage ceremony. Especially family and friends of the bride and groom (Jeremiah 33:11)
Some People find joy in their kids. Kids are a bundle of joy to their parents. (Proverbs 23:24-25)
There’s a Hebrew proverb that compares the joy that perfume brings to your nose to the joy that a good friend or friends bring to your heart (Proverb 27:9)
Biblical Joy in This Evil World
God made this world and declared it good. However, sin set in and humans made the world a terrible place through their selfishness of putting their needs above that of everyone else. Wars, crime, death have set in to rob many people of their joy. This is where biblical and Christian Joy comes in.
Biblical Joy is not just a feeling. It’s an attitude that is demonstrated. It is not based of sufferings experienced. Instead, it’s as a result of the hope God’s people have and hold on to concerning His Love and Promises.
Let’s start with Moses…
Joy in the Wilderness
When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, God raised up Moses to set them free. The first thing they did was to sing for Joy.
These people were in the desert, prone to attacks and hunger, yet they rejoiced anyway.
The Psalmist looked back at that moment in history and wrote:
And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with shouts of joy.Psalm 105:43
This joy expressed did not depend on their struggles. They expressed it in faith towards the future destiny God promised them.
Joy Amidst Oppression
When Israel fell under the oppression of kingdoms such as Babylon, they looked to the promise of God for a new deliverer just like Moses to redeem them once again.
The prophet Isaiah puts it this way:
Those redeemed by the Lord will return to Zion with glad shouts, eternal joy crowing their heads, happiness and JOY would overtake them
While they waited for this promise in hope, they chose joy as their means of anticipation for the future redemption.
Jesus the Bringer of Joy
Finally that deliverer promised in the Scriptures arrived. The one who will redeem Israel and the whole world. His name was Jesus.
That’s why when he was born, there was a great announcement from the Heavens. The angel of God told the shepherds:
“I bring you Good News that will cause Great Joy for all the people.”
Jesus came with the message of Good news that He himself will actually fulfill. This message was about the kingdom of God – God’s reign over his people on earth as it is in Heaven.
Jesus himself rejoiced when He began to announce the kingdom of God (Luke 10:21).
He taught this same attitude to his followers. The attitude of rejoicing in the midst of trouble and struggles. Here’s what he said:
“When people reject and persecute you for following me, rejoice and be very glad, because your reward is great in Heaven.”
After Jesus died and resurrected, he commissioned his followers to go out and proclaim news that He was the risen King of the whole world. Those who believed and joined the Christian community were known to be full of joy even in the midst of persecution (Acts 13:52).
Paul’s Joy in the Lord
One example of these people was the
apostle Paul. When he was thrown in the Roman prison for preaching the Good news about Jesus and the kingdom of God, he made it known in his writings that he chose joy, even if he is executed.
Paul called this the Joy of Faith (Philippians 1:25), or Joy in the Lord (Philippians 3:1). This joy he believed was derived from the Lord Jesus being with Paul through his Holy Spirit during the hard times.
This doesn’t mean that Paul suppressed his feelings.
He often spoke about how he’s missed his freedom, friends and loved ones. In his letter to the church in Corinth, he called it “… being full of sorrow and yet rejoicing…” (2 Corinthians 6:10)
When you believe that God in Jesus has overcome all the powers of darkness and death and is creating a new world full of life, joy and love, it gives reason to express joy even in midst of the darkest of troubles.
This is what Biblical Joy is all about. It’s not determined by the situation you’re facing, but by your trust in Jesus as a Christian and hope in the glorious future for all creation that He has set in motion through his death and resurrection.