“…the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full” (John 15:11)
Joy is one of the most powerful graces of the Christian life. The Bible commends it as the thing that will be our strength for the journey. Jesus prioritized it as one of the goals of His teaching … to impart Joy.
It’s one of the three qualities that characterize the Kingdom of God: where God rules there is (1) righteousness, (2) peace and (3) JOY in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17)
Sometimes there are some poor cousins that people mistake for joy: happiness, laughter, frivolity. The problem is that these things (as fine as they are in their place) are fleeting. They are human emotions, and not necessarily a divine gift. They are too often merely a symptom of the conditions we find ourselves in. In short, they are not the anchor that joy is.
You see, the Bible says “a merry heart does good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). And so it does. Sometimes a good hearty, wholesome laugh with a friend will do you a truckload of good. BUT medicine doesn’t always help, and you don’t want to become dependent on medicine.
Laughter can do you good in measured doses, but it can also be a crutch. You can use it to hide something. It’s no coincidence that a great many of our most well-known comics are depressants. Their craft was learned as a defense mechanism. Some of them are intensely sad people, and their humor is a compensation.
But real God-given joy is more than a merry heart, more than oscillating happiness, more than frivolity or laughter.
What kind of experience might show you that true joy is operating in your life? When things are NOT going well, and you’ve just received more bad news, and you have every reason to have that anxious pit in your stomach. Suddenly, right there in the eye of life’s hurricane, you feel a calm, and your thoughts are filled with the reality that God is on the throne, and He’s for you. You take out your Bible and read, and it leads you to worship and praise. In that moment, when you ought to be anxious and afraid and sad, instead you feel a kind of excitement welling up about the goodness of the Lord. You’re able to draw fresh vigor for living.
Now, it can come in other ways too. I’m not suggesting that the experience of joy is always the same, but the fundamental characteristic of it is a sense of well-being and contentment and life.
How can you restore joy?
First, by drawing water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). Remind yourself of all that God has done in saving you; all that He has given to you in Christ.
Second, build yourself up in God’s Word. The prophet Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet”; he endured so much grief because of the national calamity that he saw. But he speaks of what brought joy surging into his life again: “Your words were found, and I ate them; and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).
How, exactly, does the Word of God bring joy?
• It reveals God (The Sovereign God who rules over all things.)
• It recounts salvation (All the promises that are ours in Christ our Savior)
• It teaches us how to live as we were designed to (Giving purpose and meaning to all our days)
• It shows us the end of all things (The glorious destiny God is bringing everything to for eternity)