Where Joy Is Really Found

Written by Geo Bowman

One of the things that makes me happiest is my first spoonful of “black soup.” It’s hard for me to describe how I feel, but every time I eat my favorite Costa Rican dish, I feel as though I am in my grandma’s house surrounded by family, memories, and laughter. It doesn’t take much for me to realize I am not sitting in my grandma’s dining room; instead, I’m eating on the couch all by myself.  

There’s a song that says that the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but is it really? For most people it is, and I see why. It’s a magical season full of delicious food, family gatherings, and precious memories with those we love. It is also the season where we are reminded of the birth of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. But, for others, this might be the first year without a loved one. Maybe, this will be your first holiday season battling cancer or depression; or perhaps you are like me, far away from family.

Whatever your situation might be, I want us to sit down over a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and talk about something that never changes—the joy of the Lord. Now, before getting into what the joy of the Lord is and means to us, let’s talk about what the joy of the Lord is not. The joy of the Lord doesn’t depend on circumstances and how good life is going. It also doesn’t depend on our performance or accomplishments. This joy is also not a fleeting emotion. The joy of the Lord doesn’t come from the outside in, but from the inside out.

Then, what is the joy of the Lord?

The biblical definition of joy says that joy is a feeling of good pleasure that is rooted more in who God is than on who we are, what we can do, or what is happening around us. In fact, Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Joy is found in who God is. It is only in His presence that we find, not just joy but the fullness of it. When we abide in Him, we become like Him. And because God is full of joy, when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, we bear joy as a fruit that shows we belong to Him (Galatians 5:22-23).

Joy is also found when we wholeheartedly believe in who God is. Psalm 33:1 says that, ”our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” When we trust in Him and believe in who He is and what His Word says, we experience a joy that no circumstance can ever change because our joy is not dependent upon things that change—our joy is rooted in the God who never changes. 

Finally, the Word of God is also saturated with joy. The overarching story of the Bible is one of hope and joy. The hope we have in and through Jesus is what fills us with joy—the joy of salvation, assurance, and redemption. Another great example from the Word of God is Paul’s life. Paul’s life is one that depicts what it means to have the joy of the Lord. He went through hardships and perilous times, yet he never lost the joy of the Lord because he understood that his joy was found in Christ and Him alone. 

The joy that filled Paul’s life always came from his hope in Jesus. In fact, in Romans 15:13, he prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” This is also my prayer not only for the one who is struggling during the holiday season, but also for the one who is having “the most wonderful time of the year”. My prayer for every brother and sister in Christ is that the Lord fill us with His joy and peace in this season and every other season. May we be renewed in the knowledge of the one who abounds in hope, peace, and joy—our beloved savior and brother, Jesus Christ.
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