What is Joy?

***Brother Dennis***

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Words have different meanings to different people and in different periods of human civilization. Having that in mind, we will give the word ‘joy’ a definition that is consistent with how it is used in the Bible.


The Merriam Webster dictionary defines joy as, “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires…the expression or exhibition of such emotion…a state of happiness”. Such a definition fits perfectly with how the world defines and perceives joy. To the world, joy is an emotional high (a good feeling in the soul) brought about by the desired circumstances.


The main difference in how the world and the Christian defines joy is not in the feeling or emotion, but in what evokes the feeling of joy. While joy in the non-Christian is aroused by favorable worldly circumstances, in the Christian joy is evoked by a deep union with Christ.


A non-Christian cannot know joy as the Christian does. A non-Christian’s joy is fabricated on unstable and fickle things and so it is temporary and fleeting. In contrast, a Christian’s joy is built on solid and immutable truths, so the joy experienced is solid and permanent.

Job 20:5-7 NIV
“The mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. Though his pride reaches to the heaven and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’”


The scriptures describe the joy of the wicked as brief mirth or amusement. Concerning the joy of the believers, the bible says that it is everlasting, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.” And no one can take it away from him (and no one will take your joy from you. G.K Chesterton writes, “For the Christian, joy is the central feature of life and sorrow is peripheral, while for the non-Christian sorrow is central feature of life and joy peripheral”. To the Christian joy is central because the fundamental questions of his life are answered. For the non-Christian sorrow is a central feature because the fundamental questions of his life are not answered.


*A Christian’s definition of Joy.*
Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world. Notice that Christian joy is a good feeling. jIt is not a persuasion, or conviction (though it comes from persuasion in what God is to us). Second, notice that Christian joy is produced by the Holy Spirit as he opens our hearts to the beauty of God.


Christian joy is not merely going around with a smile on the face. It is being buoyant even in the midst of unfavorable circumstances. This soul buoyancy is permanent and is a result of believing the glorious gospel of the happy God.


Today there exists a school of thought that views joy and happiness as two different things. However, in this book, I use joy and happiness as synonyms because I do not see any difference between joy and happiness both in scripture and English language. Historically, those words meant the same thing.


An excerpt from the book : The Pursuit of Joy by Dennis Macharia.

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