Much like love, joy has a pretty shallow definition within our culture. In essence, "joy" is just a really happy feeling. You feel joy when you open a great birthday or Christmas present, or when you test-drive a really fast car, or when you win a big cash prize in the lottery.

But what does the Bible teach us about joy? Since this series is biblically based, we want to know the biblical meaning of this word.

It's not that joy can't ever be a happy feeling. In the New Testament, written after Jesus walked the earth, many of the letters written to the small churches of that time describe the "joy" they felt from seeing and being loved by each other. Other joy described in the Bible arises from trusting and believing God or from watching a person choose to follow Jesus. Joy might be part of a person's expression of worship – how they feel when they witness God's greatness and splendor – spoken of often in the Psalms, a book filled with descriptions of relating to God.

But the Bible also shows us that we can have this deep sense of joy even when things aren't going well. A feeling of "happiness" is based on our (rather shifty) circumstances being positive, but Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus "for the joy set before him endured the cross.…" He experienced a terrible and extreme pain, but He endured it because He knew there was immeasurable good to come of it – the reconciliation of humanity to their Creator. The same is true in James 1, where believers are told to "consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." Knowing that spiritual rewards follow challenging times can fill you with joy now, even in the midst of those hard times.

joyThe point seems to be that joy is based on something bigger, something deeper, something lasting – joy is solidified in the object of our faith. Jesus told His followers that He came to make their joy complete (through His reconciling work on the cross), which implies that He is the only one who can bring true, lasting joy. John 16:22 confirms that "no one will take away your joy." If it doesn't settle deep into your soul (and stay there), it's probably better labeled as happiness.

In my drawing, the girl has her arms raised, her hands lifted up. She sees that her joy has come to her from outside and above herself. There is a lightness and an exuberance. Though we don't know what's given her this joy, we know that it has filled her thoroughly!

Finally, I hope you're encouraged by Romans 15:13 – "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him…."

Galatians 5:22-23 – "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

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