What is joy

JOY is  defined by the Homan Dictionary as “the happy state that results from knowing and serving God.”

Joy is found over 150 times in the Bible. If such words as “joyous” and “joyful” are included, the number comes to over 200.

The verb rejoice appears well over 200 times. This means that rejoicing is an action than we can carry out. We can choose to be joyful.

Joy is different from pleasure

The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure. The Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our word hedonism, the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking. Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4).

The Bible warns that self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 records the sad testimony of one who sought to build his life on pleasure-seeking. The search left him empty and disillusioned. Proverbs 14:13 offers insight into this way of life, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.”

Pleasure seeking often enslaves people in a vicious cycle of addiction (Tit. 3:3). The self-indulgent person, according to 1 Timothy 5:6, is dead while seeming still to be live.

(Source: Holman Bible Dictionary)

Pleasure, therefore, is the result of doing things that are pleasurable such as eating, drinking, laughing, etc. Joy is the result of a correct state of mind that one has when he is in tuned with God.

Why strive for joy
God Himself is a joyful God

Many people think that God is the great Kill-Joy. Nothing could be a bigger lie. God Himself knows joy, and He wants His people to know joy. Psalm 104:31 speaks of God Himself rejoicing in His creative works. Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God rejoicing over His redeemed people who will be to Him “a joy.”

Luke 15 is the most famous biblical reference to God’s joy. The Pharisees and scribes had criticized Jesus for receiving sinners and eating with them. Then Jesus told three parables–the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the loving father. The explicit theme of each parable is joy over one sinner who repents.

(Source: Holman Dictionary)

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit

(Gal 5:22 NIV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

The joy of the Lord is our strength

If we look at depressed people, we will immediately notice that they do not have much energy. The lack of joy saps away their energy and they cannot be enthusiastic about anything.

(Neh 8:10 NIV)  Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Why we can rejoice
We have Jesus

What is making you happy or making you secure in life? If it is family or possession that is your chief source of happiness, the situation is vulnerable. Only when we place our happiness and security on something eternal and unchangeable can we be truly secure.

I experienced a period of time when I was not happy with my work. At that time life became quite miserable because I place my happiness on work and I lost it. Then I read the book “The pleasure of God” because I wanted to know what makes God happy. Perhaps that same thing would make me happy. Only reading into the beginning of the book, I found the answer that changed my life. That verse is one that I knew all along but failed to appreciate.

Matthew 3:16  After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.”

It gripped me that the main thing that makes God the Father happy was Jesus. Because Jesus never disappoints. At last there is something that we can forever place our happiness and security on – Jesus. Whenever we are tempted to be unhappy, let’s shift our concentration not to the negative things but to the positive. We have Jesus. And we can be happy.

The joy of God came to focus in human history in Jesus Christ. The note of joy and exultation runs through the entire biblical account of the coming of Christ (Luke 1:14,44; Matt. 2:10). The most familiar passage is the angel’s announcement of “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). Jesus spoke of His own joy and of the full joy He had come to bring to others (John 15:11; 17:13). He illustrated the kingdom of heaven by telling of the joy of a man who found treasure (Matt. 13:44). Zacchaeus was in a tree when Jesus called him, but he quickly climbed down and received Jesus joyfully (Luke 19:6). He had found life’s ultimate treasure in Christ. (Source: Holman Dictionary)

God will give us the fruit of our labors

(Isa 54:1-3 NIV)  “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. {2} “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. {3} For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.

We can have victory in Christ over evil forces

(Luke 10:17-19 NIV)  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” {18} He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. {19} I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

God is at work in our life to change us for the better

(Rom 5:3-4 NIV)  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope.

(James 1:2-3 NIV)  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, {3} because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Yes, we are expected to be joyful even in the midst of our trials. The New Testament gave us examples of Christians who could be joyful even in the midst of the most severe trials.

2 Corinthians 8:2 (NIV) Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

God will answer our prayers

John 16:24 (NIV) Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

We look forward to our rewards

(Heb 12:2 NIV)  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus could endure all the suffering, and could even be joyful because He looked to the joy that was set before Him after He has accomplished His purpose.

Jesus often promises rewards to many people who are suffering for His kingdom’s sake so that they can look forward to the joy that is before them.

(Mat 5:11-12 NIV)  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. {12} Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Rejoicing during times of trials

What causes us to lose our joy

Sin can cause us to lose joy and enter into a depressed state. An example could be found in the life of King David.

Psalms 51:8-13 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. {9} Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. {10} Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. {11} Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. {12} Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. {13} Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

When King David had sinned by committing adultery, he lost the joy of walking close to God. When he finally repented, he asked God to restore to him the joy of his salvation.

Somebody once said that a Christian who has sin in his life is the most miserable person possible. A Christian who lives his life right is walking in the joy of his salvation. A non-Christian who continually sin may not be as miserable as he is not living his life inconsistently. There is no inner voice to make him guilty. But a Christian who deliberately holds on to sin has so much inconsistency in him that he becomes so miserable. Paul tells us of this misery when he writes :

(Rom 7:18-24) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. {19} For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. {20} Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. {21} So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. {22} For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; {23} but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. {24} What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?


If we harbor unforgiveness towards someone, that feeling will eat us up from within. We cannot experience joy unless we release the hatred through forgiveness.

Read “Forgiving others”


Another factor that saps our joy is worry.

Read “How to combat worry”

How to be joyful
Concentrate on the positives

We cannot be joyful if we only concentrate on the negatives in our life and fail to appreciate the good things that God has given us. Many of them are listed above under “Why we can rejoice”. You can also find reasons to rejoice even in your trials.

Have faith in God

Many of the reasons why we can rejoice has to do with what God will do for us in His timing. That means that we need to have faith that God will do what He promises. If we continue to look at the present circumstances, we cannot be joyful.

Commit all our cares to God

If we refuse to let go of our problems and let God handle them, we cannot be joyful.

(Psa 55:22 NIV)  Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Depression: Its causes and cure