The “Joy of the Lord” is mentioned throughout the Psalms, the Gospels, and many of Apostle Paul’s writings.
But the English word ‘joy’ may not be the best translation of the Scriptural meaning, which has left many Christians disheartened when they’re experiencing emotions other than happiness.
It’s not the happiness of the Lord that is promised during our time on this Earth, but the “joy” of the Lord. So what does the “Joy of the Lord” really mean?
Joy, in the Biblical sense of the word, refers more to an understanding and anticipation of goodness and greatness than an easy life of only happiness and devoid of sadness.
While joy and happiness seem to be synonymous words, they are a square/rectangle situation.
Just like all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares—so happiness fits within the constraints of joy, but joy is not held within the box of happiness.
In examining this, an excellent place to look is at the Apostle Paul.
In Paul’s writings he states that joy is one of the Fruits of the Spirit, meaning it is something we know to be uniquely from God.
Not only is this mentioned in his writings, but we can see this within Paul’s life.
Paul, following his conversion, did not live an easy life. He was imprisoned, shipwrecked, beaten nearly to death, mocked, and marked for murder.
Yet, through it all, Paul had joy.
Paul had joy in knowing that what he was doing was from and with God, that greater things were happening than that of the world and he was going through them with his Maker.
Through it all, Paul was not always spritely and in ease, but he had the joy of the Lord.
The reality is even sadness can be a part of joy.
There is a beautiful truth within our suffering and sadness as servants of the almighty God.
Unlike those who do not know Christ, when we suffer, we get to go through it with Him.
This, yet again, is an exemplification of the joy of the Lord.
There is joy in our tears, because we are weeping with the One who became a man and wept.
We are suffering with the One who became a man and suffered.
We have been raised up with Him, and get to experience life with Him.
Examine David throughout Samuel and Psalms. David writes psalms of joy while being hunted by his enemies. He weeps and breaks down while still writing of joy.
Amidst all of his suffering and all of the difficulties, he is accompanied by his God.
That is joy.
David knew, anticipated, and understood God’s greatness and goodness amidst the dark times.
Joy is the beauty of experiencing life, all of it, the highs and the lows, with the One who created us.
Another place we can look in scripture at the unique nature of joy is the story of Job.
Job was under heavy fire from the enemy throughout much of his life. He lost nearly everything. And he suffered.
And yet he had joy.
Why did Job have joy even amidst such horrible suffering? Because not only did he know the reason behind it, but he went through it with his God!
This can be seen in countless other places throughout the scripture. It can be found in Jonah worshipping in the belly of a whale, in Jeremiah in Lamentations, in the apostles throughout Acts, in Isaiah – arguably in every book of the Bible.
So how do we translate this for our own lives?
It is okay to fall apart.
When we as Christians are faced with sadness, anger, and difficulty, it’s okay to fight for happiness, especially knowing that it will come.
When we suffer, we get to go through it with our God at our side, with Christ who has experienced it all.
As we suffer, we get the comfort of knowing that happiness lays ahead of us, and presently in us, within Christ.
This is why we can shout for joy in worship while we struggle, this is why our tears can bode the promise of happiness.
The joy of the Lord is the reality of having the Spirit within us and the awareness of the greatness and love of our God.
Suffering is temporary, but our God is forever, and His joys are new every morning.
So pray for a proper understand of the “Joy of the Lord” both for your life and the lives of our fellow Christians—that we would not be discouraged by sadness or challenges, but that even in the face of these things, we would still have joy.