Be joyful, rejoice, glad tidings of joy--it’s all over in the Bible, hundreds of times. But what is joy, and how do you have it? Joy is two-fold: an emotion and a state of being. Very few people understand that joy can be a state of being, and often limit it to just an emotion. And more still think of it only as a higher form of happiness, a greater sense of gladness. We’ve all imagined it: the stereotypical carefree people skipping in slow-motion through a summer field, with the cheesy-guitar music, faces aglow, their hair perfectly windblown and their teeth crest-white and smiling. Thankfully, joy is a lot more than that, and it can come in any situation.
Joy is promised to us as a fruit of the Spirit. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: … joy.” Gal. 5:22. When we have the Holy Spirit in us, He will produce joy in our lives. That means it’s not up to you to conjure up. God has taken that responsibility to birth it in you, to create it, to cause it to exist (examples from the merriam-webster online definition for “produce”). Joy is sitting right before you, ready for you to use in any circumstance.
Okay, so what does that mean? If joy is already produced by Christ for me, a fruit I have in my life, that means in any situation I can apply it. That is what it means to have joy as a state of being, a state of thinking--joy as a perspective. In essence: You can choose to be joyful. Or you can choose not to be.
Satan is a great liar; for a long time he had convinced me that joy was not a choice. I remember many a conversation with Peter, who was kindly trying to help me get back on track, when my emotions and thoughts would start “spiraling” downward--”I messed this up, which reminds me I forgot to send that important email, and oh my gosh our kitchen is piled with old dishes, and has it seriously been two weeks since I did a load of laundry?” and before I knew it I was a discouraged, angry, depressed, pitiful little excuse of a woman. Or so I felt.
You see, you get to choose what you value. In those moments, my dishes, for example, had more value in my life than my loving husband who thought I was pretty great. It sound ridiculous when I write it out, but that’s what my thoughts, feelings, and actions were saying. That’s what I was believing--so my emotions reflected it. When I realized this, I was amazed and actually doubtful--could it really be that simple? So often the craziness of the moment so quickly makes us lose a joy-filled perspective. I would say that joy is the response and emotion you can get when you keep your values focused on the good things in life that God has given us.
What really got me was this word: rejoice. It’s in the NKJV 199 times. And what does it mean? To be glad. It’s a command, ladies and gentleman. And that means it can’t just be an arbitrary emotion--it has to be choice if it can be commanded of us.
So how do you choose joy? This is what I do. When I realize that I’m in a bad mood, cranky, frustrated, sad etc. I take the next step and try to figure out why: what am I thinking is more important than all the good things in my life? In many cases it can actually be a lie that I’m believing, like a fear of not being good enough, for example, that is stopping me from putting on God’s joy. I’ll write (or just think if I can’t get away to write) what IS bothering me, and then I’ll come up with things that are way more important and focus on those things. I can’t take all the credit for this idea though--Paul had the same idea in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
The greatest example of all is Christ. When he was beaten, crushed and crucified, in excruciating pain, he had one joy that carried him through: the knowledge that doing so would enable YOU to experience salvation. Truly, this is greatest joy of all--the joy of our salvation.