“This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
– Psalm 118:24
What is the source of your joy? What brings you joy? What makes you glad and brings you good cheer? Is it a person who gives you joy – Someone who’s smile brightens your day? Someone you enjoy spending time with and always look forward to seeing? Or is it an activity you enjoy doing – maybe a sport or hobby that you could do for hours and never get tired of, something you plan your days and weekends around and always make time for in your schedule? Or maybe it’s a place you enjoy going to – a certain spot of your house you’ve claimed as your own that always calms you and puts you at ease? Maybe a favorite vacation spot that holds a lot of precious memories for you and your family?
Once you’ve identified what brings you joy, the next question to ask yourself is – how do you know it brings you joy? What does joy look like? What does it feel like? How do you express joy? How do you experience joy? Do you leap and dance with joy? Do you rejoice with songs of praise? Or does your joy look more like quiet confidence and a simple smile, or maybe even a burst of laughter?
Spiritually speaking, joy is often the result of spending time in fellowship with God. Psalm 16:11 says, “…In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Spiritually speaking, God is not only the source of our joy, but He is also the object of our joy. Psalm 4:7 tells us He has put joy and gladness in our hearts, and in Psalm 51:12 David pleads with God to “restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Psalm 35:9 says, “My soul shall rejoice in the Lord; it shall exult in His salvation.”
The Joy of Salvation
This connection between joy and salvation is no mistake. The Greek word for joy is “chairo” which is very similar to the Greek word “charis” which means grace. Grace is defined as the unmerited favor of God, and grace is the reason we can experience true and lasting joy. In the book Life on the Vine, Phillip Kenneson describes the similarity between these two words by saying, “…both imply the activity of freely taking delight in something or someone beyond one’s self.” Throughout Scripture we see joy expressed as a response to salvation. In the Old Testament, we see joy expressed as a response to delivery from exile (Isaiah 35:10, 52:9, 62:5, 65:17-19, Zephaniah 3:17). We even see in these passages that God also rejoices over us. He takes delight in us. He rejoices over us with singing. How encouraging to know that God rejoices over us like a proud parent! Is there something that once had you enslaved? If you’ve found freedom, or if you’re on your way to freedom – know that God is rejoicing in this freedom with you! He does not rebuke us, but rejoices over us. In the New Testament, we see joy expressed as a response to being healed physically (Luke 13:13, 17:15, Acts 3:8, 8:8) and as response to spiritual conversion (Acts 8:39, 15:3, 16:34, John 4:36). We also see joy expressed as a result of fellowship with other believers (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, 3:9, Philippians 4:1, Romans 15:32, 2 Timothy 1:4, and Philemon 1:7). Paul often told the churches he wrote to that he longed to see them because of the joy they brought him. There is joy in community. There is joy in gathering together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And finally, we also see joy expressed as a response to the hope of resurrection. In Luke 24:40-41 Jesus shows the disciples His hands and His feet after appearing to them after the resurrection. But Scripture says, “they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement.” I find it interesting in this verse that they could not believe because of their joy. It’s almost as if Luke is telling us – they couldn’t believe because it was too good to be true. Has your joy ever kept you from believing something to be true? In this passage, after Jesus ascends to Heaven, verse 52 says, “And they, after worshipping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” The Gospel is good news of great joy. The Gospel goes forth because of our overwhelming sense of joy that we can’t help but share with others!
But there are also obstacles to joy. What are some things that stand in your way and keep you from experiencing joy?
The Obstacles of Joy
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” How often do we compare ourselves to others? I should be further along in my life, I should have accomplished more, I should be married, I should have children, I should have more money, more possessions, less financial strain, less emotional struggle, I should look this way or I should look that way. Do any of those statements sound familiar? The culture we live in today, all the advertising and all the social media feeds – they are constantly asking us to compare ourselves to others. We are always desiring more, always desiring new, always desiring better. We are rarely content with our life exactly as it is. We can never be content or full of joy when we can’t seem to see beyond ourselves to the bigger work God is doing. We can’t rejoice in the Lord today and embrace His presence today if we are constantly filled with worry and anxiety about what tomorrow will bring. We’re afraid of being different, afraid of going against the grain, so we do everything we can to try to fit in and blend in – but there is no joy in a life that is not authentic to who God created you to be. There is no joy in living a life that is outside of alignment with and the plan and purpose God designed you to fulfill.
The Relationship Between Joy and Sorrow
In addition to the relationship between joy and salvation, there is also a relationship between joy and sorrow. Have you ever seen the movie Inside Out? It’s a children’s cartoon that is based on five of the primary emotions and how they guide our thoughts and actions. It gives lifelike characteristics to these emotions, with the primary character being Joy – and Joy is who we always want in control. Joy is the one who gives us all of our happiest memories. But there’s another character – Sadness. And throughout the movie, no one wants sadness in control of anything. Everything she touches turns sad and gloomy. But at the end of the movie, we learn the importance of sadness. We learn that we need sadness in order to experience joy. When we are sad, the people we love come to comfort us and cheer us up. They strive to make sure we feel seen, heard, and cared for. Some of our most joyful memories are preceded by moments of grief and sorrow, because it’s in times of sorrow that we seek that comfort and belonging. We wouldn’t know the fullness of joy if we hadn’t first known the fullness of sorrow. And we see this correlation in Scripture as well.
Psalm 30:5 says, “…Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”
Psalm 126: 5 says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.”
In Luke 6:22-23, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven…”
In Acts 5:40-41, the apostles were flogged and ordered not to speak the name of Jesus, but when they were released they went on their way “…rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” And Scripture says they went on teaching and preaching the name of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 16:25, Paul and Silas were imprisoned, and yet they were praying and singing hymns of praise to God! Joy is not bound by our physical circumstances. The joy of the Lord is a joy that endures even when the circumstances around us are telling us to be sorrowful and discouraged.
In Colossians 1:24 Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…”
In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7, Paul encourages the church at Thessalonica by reminding them they “…received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” They were joyful, despite the persecution they had endured. And they became an example to all the believers.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
1 Peter 4:13 says, “…But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”
Joy is able to endure through trial and sorrow because it is different than happiness or pleasure. Joy goes deeper. Joy is more eternal. The object of our delight is different with joy. As Phillip Kenneson writes, the level of our delight “will differ to the extent that we are drawn out of ourselves.” He goes on to say, “The more we are drawn out of ourselves, the more we likely characterize our delight as joy rather than simply pleasure.” Joy reaches beyond ourselves and beyond our own fears and insecurities. True joy is rooted in the deep and abiding love of Christ. It is rooted in the hope He offers.
How Can We Cultivate Joy in Our Lives?
Joy is often found in the most simple things. Do you remember the “Chewbacca Mom” video? It was a video that went viral on Facebook Live a few years ago. In the video, Candace Payne, a mom of two, spontaneously purchased a Chewbacca mask at a Kohl’s, and couldn’t wait to get home and try it out in front of her kids, so she sat in her car and tried it on for all of friends and family on Facebook. She then proceeded to laugh hysterically at herself wearing the mask, and the Chewbacca sounds coming from the mask only intensified the laughter. Her laughter was contagious. Hundreds of thousands saw the video, joined in her laughter, and shared it with their friends and family. Candace ended the video, weak from laughter, with the phrase, “It’s the simple joys, ya’ll!” That video created a ripple effect of joy across the world. And in the days and weeks that followed, Candace gained a platform on which to share the source of her joy. Because her joy is a joy that comes from the Lord. She is now a Christian speaker, author, and podcast host – and God used a Chewbacca mask to make it happen. She lived in the moment, embraced a moment of joy, and is still feeling the effects of it to this day. That’s the power of joy.
When the seeds of joy have been planted and cared for, they multiple and bring forth more fruit. So how can we cultivate and grow the fruit of joy in our lives?
We cultivate joy through worship and thanksgiving.
Make a list of things that bring you joy. Keep a gratitude journal. It’s something so simple that changes your perspective and shifts your focus to things above. When we realize how much we have to be thankful for, we can’t help but worship and praise the God who is the creator and giver of goodness.
Psalm 63:5-7 says, “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.”
Even in the shadow there is something to be thankful for. There is a reason to rejoice, if only because we are close to the Father and safe under His wings.
Psalm 66:1-2 says, “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious.”
Worship Him with songs of thanksgiving. Worship Him with songs of praise. Worship Him with shouts of joy.
Psalm 68:3-4 says, “But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him.”
Psalm 84:1-2 says, “How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
In 2 Samuel 6:12-22 David expressed His joyful gratitude to God in the form of leaping and dancing. When the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem, Scripture says David was “…dancing before the Lord with all his might” (v. 14). He was “leaping and dancing before the Lord” (v. 16). And when Saul’s daughter saw it and spoke against this “undignified” display of leaping and dancing, David responded by reminding her that He was chosen and appointed by God. “Therefore,” he says, “I will celebrate before the Lord” (v. 21).
We cultivate joy through traditions.
Holidays are Holy Days. Culture. History. Stories. Songs. Feasting. Fellowship. These are all things that bring us joy. These are all things that are found throughout Scripture. These are all things that God gave priority to in Scripture. The Gospel was passed down through the sharing of stories. Jesus celebrated the tradition of Passover by sitting around a table and breaking bread with His disciples. Sabbath rest – one day each week of ceasing from work – is a commandment of God. What are some traditions in your life that bring you joy? If you don’t have any traditions in your life right now that bring you joy, start your own traditions. Create regular rhythms and routines in your life around the things that bring you joy and point you to Christ.
We cultivate joy by spending time with children.
Children are a source of joy because they are full of joy, and joy is contagious. Children see the world differently than we do. They find joy in simple things, things that we would normally overlook and not give a second thought to. Maybe you don’t have children of your own, but you can visit with your friends and family who have children. You can offer to babysit for them. You can volunteer at school events and church events. When we surround ourselves with childlike faith and joyfulness, it bolsters our own faith and fills us with joy.
What are some other ways you can cultivate joy in your life?