"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26
Joy is defined in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary in this way: “To rejoice; to be glad; to exult.” As an example the dictionary quotes Habakkuk 3:18 which exults “…yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
In the Bible wonderful and great events are always greeted with joy. The angels were joyful when they exclaimed, "Glory to God in the highest,” declaring the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:14. The disciples in Luke 24:41 also showed great joy upon seeing their risen Lord.
Good things are almost always a cause for joy, but what about when things don’t go as we planned or something seriously tragic happens? Are we to have joy then? James 1:2-5 tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
We are to glory in the Lord and rejoice in our trials. God is great, and whatever else is going on, He is faithful and just. As my mother says, it is in our difficulty that we need joy the most. In Nehemiah 8:10 we are told, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
A perfect example of this relates to my mother in September of 1998. Our family had driven four days to make the move from Massachusetts to Oklahoma. It was the worst week of my entire life. We had driven into the wee hours of the morning every day driving an oversized moving truck with a car trailer attached to the back. The contraption would not back up, and it got stuck over and over again. We almost went over a cliff once in the mountains of Kentucky, and multiple problems had arisen. We were relieved when we reached our new home and unloaded our belongings. Only one thing needed to be done to rid ourselves of the gigantic monster. It needed to be driven back to the truck location.
That was easier said than done. My parents were unfamiliar with the neighborhood and so fell into perhaps the worst trap of the entire town. A street around the corner was straight and level before suddenly dropping steeply down to the intersection below. It did not gradually level out again but just as suddenly became level again. It was here that our truck became stuck once more. My mom was very tempted to become depressed and irritated.
A bird was tweeting musically in a tree nearby without a care in the world. Mom was reminded to rejoice in the little pleasures and to enjoy the beauty of the day. She gave thanks to God that we had arrived safely and without any greater mishap than a constantly stuck truck. There is great encouragement in finding the silver lining in our troubles. God is great and worthy to be praised.
The Psalmist gives repeated exclamations of joy and praise to God. Psalm 32:11 is a shining illustration of this. “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”