Many people think of happiness and joy as the same thing, but they are not. In this post, I want to dig down and embrace a faith that brings about a state of mind and not just a feeling. The joy of the Lord is given to those who seek it and accept it and is not dependent on external situations.
Let me explain.
We all want to be happy, am I right? We want things to go well and have an overall feeling of well-being. However, that happiness comes and goes depending on what is going on in our lives.
- We get a bonus from our boss and our hard work is rewarded- we are happy. A storm comes and a tree falls on our car- not happy.
- We spend the afternoon sledding and playing in the snow with our kids- we are happy. Our beloved pet dies- not happy.
Happiness is a feeling that changes depending on what is happening around us. What we need is a way to continue feeling happy even when things are falling apart.
What we need is the joy of the Lord.
The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength
One of the more popular verses about this kind of joy comes from Nehemiah in which he proclaims, “ the joy of the Lord is our strength”.
The setting is Jerusalem after the children of Israel have been punished by the Babylonian captivity. These Jews have returned from exile determined not to make the same mistakes as their ancestors.
They build up the walls of the temple and the city gates, attempting to make it livable again, facing opposition on every side.
After years of hard work, Ezra the scribe, stands in the middle of the “town square” and begins reading the laws of God. This is the first time many of these people have heard the word of God directly from the text. They hang on to Ezra’s every word.
The people are so moved that they begin to weep. Nehemiah tells them that the day is holy (it is the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles) and that they should eat, drink, and rejoice because the “joy of the Lord is your strength”. The people rejoiced greatly because they “understood the words that were declared to them”.
I believe this means they chose that day to follow God’s laws and were declaring their faithfulness to Him.
“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
What is the Biblical Meaning of Joy?
So, we know that joy is not a feeling like happiness, but rather an emotion that does not change with the wind. We’ve talked about the joy of the Lord and how we find that through obedience.
Let’s turn our attention specifically to finding joy in Christ. It is redemption, the reconciliation of fallen man with His creator, a personal experience of dedication and fellowship with Christ that leads us to the Biblical meaning of joy.
Finding Joy in Christ
Salvation and eternal security alone should bring us joy. Our problems and heartbreak here on earth are only temporary. We will live with Jesus throughout all eternity. It is a small price to pay.
I do want to explore the topic of heartbreak. Might be a strange thing to say in a post about the joy of the Lord, but keep reading, I promise you will see this differently.
Running alongside the theme of joy in the New Testament is suffering. Isn’t that crazy? What could suffering and joy have in common? Paul understood this.
“Looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Paul is one who understood that joy comes only from looking ahead to what is beyond this world and living a life devoted to Christ. One of my favorite stories of Paul is an example of this.
The setting is Philippi. Paul and Silas are preaching and have stirred up the spiritual world a bit.
A young woman who made a lot of money for her masters due to her gift of fortune-telling begins following them around, proclaiming loudly who they are. She did not do this because she believed, but because the spirit inside her was troubled at their presence.
For several days, Paul patiently ignored her and finally had enough. He turned around and freed her from the vile spirit. Because of this, she no longer had the ability to tell fortunes and this did not sit well with her masters. They came after Paul and Silas.
Paul and Silas end up beaten and thrown into jail. Their hands and feet are bound in stocks. Not a good place to be in life.
Fortunately, Paul’s faith was greater than mine (because I tend to pout) and he began praising God.
Yep, Paul praised God after he had been beaten and thrown into jail. Instead of thinking, this was God’s fault, you know, as Paul was only setting the poor girl free from satan. He shouldn’t be in this situation.
Paul’s joy was not dependent on his situation. It was dependent on his love for Christ and eternal life.
In the end, God breaks them out of prison with an earthquake and the jailer and his family come to salvation.
We suffer because God is purifying our hearts and from that purification pours out the joy that cannot be quenched by any of life’s trials. This is the joy of the Lord.
“Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John 16:22
Jesus also teaches us about the joy of the Lord which is similar to what we talked about earlier.
True love of God and obedience to Him bring true joy.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:9-11
More Bible Verses about Joy
Here are a few more Bible verses about the joy of the Lord.
- My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4
- For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
- In this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, who having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9
- The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
- You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, Psalm 30:11
- Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12-13
How Can the Joy of the Lord Change Your Life?
How can the joy of the Lord change your life? Perhaps you are already obedient and in love with Christ. Perhaps your eternal salvation is secure and yet you remain unhappy.
You no longer look at your situations in a negative light, because with God all things are possible. If life doesn’t go well here for you on this present earth, you can rest in the knowledge that there is a better day coming.
If you are limping along with one bad thing after another happening to you and your family (I’ve been there!) and you want to yell at God rather than serve Him,
God’s love is still there. He will hear you when you call and bring hope for a better day. He will provide strength for the now and peace for the future.
David says in Psalm 4, “You have put gladness in my heart, More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.”.
I love this!
David is joyful because He knows the one true God. This is where we are. We have no reason to be discouraged because we have the Lord. We have salvation and we have eternal security.
In the following chapter, David proclaims, “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. For You, O Lord will bless the righteous; With favor, You will surround him as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12
4 Reasons the Joy of the Lord Changes Your Life
According to David, we can be joyful for these four reasons:
- God saves us from sin and separation from Him
- God defends us
- God blesses us
- God surrounds us