I like to give my children gifts. I know what they enjoy, what they think about, what they need to do this life. When I want to give my children a gift, there is a lot of thought and time that go into it. Once the gift is purchased and wrapped, I can hardly wait to see the looks on their faces as they discover what they’ve received. The look of excitement. The look of happiness. The look of joy.
Joy. It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot this time of year. With the Christmas season closing in, people are stringing lights and shopping for gifts for those they love. Christmas cards are being written, wishing peace and joy to all. I love this season and all that it brings. But does it really bring me joy?
If we look at the Bible we see that biblical joy isn’t a feeling of happiness based on your experiences or circumstances. Rather, it is a powerful picture of how Christ overflows in your life as you align your heart with His. It is one of the many fruits of the Spirit.
What does Biblical joy look like?
It Creates and Opportunity to Grow – James 1:2 states that we can be joyful when we experience trials of many kinds because it builds and shapes our character. When was the last time that you looked back over a situation in your life that was difficult to walk through, but you were thankful for it anyway? When you are through the fire and you are able to see things in a heavenly perspective – when you see the way God has changed and shaped you through this hardship, you experience biblical joy.
It Becomes Our Strength – Nehemiah 8:10 – This scripture is proclaimed during the feast of trumpets, where the Israelites were gathered together to hear Ezra read the law of Moses. As they were gathered here listening to all of these commands, they were affected by the realization of their sins and their disobedience to the law stirred their hearts to deep regret and sorrow. The Israelites were being reminded.that though they were devastated in the conviction of their sin, God was still at work in their lives. They felt sad, but could walk in joy because of God’s faithfulness to provide them with the strength to do the work set out before them. Sometimes we have days where we don’t feel like serving God, because we are unhappy or not “feeling it,” but God gives us the strength to continue His work and serve others with joy.
It is from God – Psalm 4:7, 16:11 – God can put joy in our hearts, and in His presence there is a fullness of joy. My husband has worked the same job for over 18 years. It’s dirty, it’s physically demanding, and it’s under appreciated. Yet in the midst of all of that, he really loves it. He enjoys caring for people, even on the hardest of days. A few months ago he’d lost that love for his job. Different factors contributed to him coming home feeling deflated and void of any happiness or fulfillment. Bathing, feeding and dressing the elderly is a ministry that flows from his heart. So it nearly broke mine to see him that way. One evening at our life group, he asked for prayer for more joy. A few days later, others gathered to pray for him. Later that week, he had an awful day at work. As he was driving home, he couldn’t stop smiling. His heart was lighter. He returned to work and found his joy had been restored, though none of the circumstances had. God just put His joy in my husband’s heart.
It is the heart of Worship – Psalm 98:4 – Shout to the Lord , all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy! Have you ever been worshipping with fellow believers and felt a resounding presence of joy? It is an amazing feeling. When we experience the joy of the Lord it overflows out of us and is turned back into joyful praise to Him. Sing and don’t hold back! Dance for joy! Worship Him with all that is in you.
Oh that I could have joy as often as I have pain! But the truth is, I can. Happiness is fleeting but biblical joy is everlasting. It is a gift. It is produced in our lives when we serve God wholeheartedly.
This Christmas season, I want to experience joy. But not the kind of joy written on a Christmas card. Not the kind of joy that comes bundled in a package with a pretty bow. I want to experience real joy – by serving Him, by worshipping Him, and yes, by even through Him shaping my life through trials. Real joy, everlasting joy, is only from God.