Joy. As a kid growing up in a pastor's home, this word was commonly used, and not just a name for a random girl in my class. Mostly, it was used in songs at church, not in every day speech.
"I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart...where?!"
"Joy unspeakable and full of glory..."
"The Joy of the Lord is my strength..."
I'm not sure I knew what this really meant though. Again, not a common word we use in every day life. When my mom would ask me how my day was or how I was feeling, I typically didn't respond by saying, "I am full of joy and joyful!" It seems a bit cliche and perhaps too spiritual. Be honest, you know what I am talking about. Someone is going through a really tough time and they break out the "I still have joy in my heart" phrase or "the joy of the Lord is my strength." Really?!
I struggled so much with sayings like this, because often, their actions didn't line up with their words. There are exceptions to this. The always happy, always smiling, enthusiastic about life people that make you feel like an awful human being for thinking any situation could be a bad situation. But, for the most part, I would write off the idea of joy altogether. It was a nice thought, but not realistic. Not attainable. Never achievable. Always a bit out of my reach. When I thought I was there, something in life would happen that shattered the hope of joy again and again.
So what really is this seemingly far-out emotion, and what is the great opportunity lying in wait for us? Webster defines joy as "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness." I like far better how John Piper defines joy from a biblical standpoint. "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 Word and in the world."
1. A good feeling in the soul
As I have stated before, feelings are not bad. They aren't fact either, but they certainly aren't bad. Don't you wish you could have a good feeling in your soul in the middle of your stressful situation? What would you give to feel this way in the midst of a tragedy that hits close to home? Throughout scripture we see reference after reference of God wanting our actions and our words to line up. I love that we can say the right things, but we are also allowed to feel the right things. Wouldn't you jump on that opportunity? Joy can be yours!
2. Produced by the Holy Spirit
This is the key to joy that so many of us miss out on. Joy is produced from the inside. The things of this world can produce moments of bliss and happiness, but cannot be sustained. But, if we stay connected to the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to actually do work inside of us, joy is a natural (or perhaps supernatural) byproduct of Him! But the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. We are able to partake of this wonderful gift and even live in it! Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the fruit of joy! What an opportunity!
3. Joy causes us to see the beauty of Christ
I would like to add to this statement if I could, Mr. Piper?! I believe one of the greatest opportunities in joy is to not only see the beauty of Christ for ourselves, but also for others to see the beauty of Christ in us. What a testimony to those outside our faith. To see our lives at the worst of times and still see a joy that permeates from within us. I remember a specific moment at a job I had a few years back. I was welding metal door frames together for forty hours a week! (Side note: when God calls you to minister, you do that regardless of a "full-time, paid" position at a church) On top of the job, I was going through a tough time personally. I remember my co-workers and manager asking me how I could stay so positive and pleasant through this whole ordeal. Again, what an incredible opportunity. I knew I had to share the joy of Christ in my life that is not based on outward circumstances! I was also able to share that they could have the same joy by accepting Christ into their lives. And guess what evangelism gurus?! They opened the door for me...I didn't even have to create the talking point!
This is the opportunity we all have. To live our lives in such a way, that even in the middle of our emotions, good or bad, that we can represent Christ for a dying world to see. That we could share His joy to the world. This is so much more than a Christmas song or overly spiritual idea. This is a way of life. Even when all of our other emotions are raging, there can be a joy deep in our soul that is able to shine through the darkness and lead people straight to Christ.
Walk in this joy.
Talk of this joy.
Be the person that gets strange looks for always being happy.
It is not just for our peace and contentment, but for His Glory!
The joy of the Lord truly is our strength!