Often the thing that keeps me from experiencing joy is my preoccupation with self. The very selfishness that keeps me from pouring myself out for the joy of others also keeps me from noticing and delighting in the myriad small gifts God offers each day. Joy is at the heart of God’s plan for human beings. The reason for this is worth pondering awhile: Joy is at the heart of God himself.
This is why the Bible speaks not just about our need for joy in general, but a particular kind of joy that characterizes God. After teaching on the need for obedience, Jesus told his friends that his aim was that they should be filled with joy, but not just any kind of joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
The Bible puts joy in the non-optional category. Joy is a command. Joylessness is a serious sin, one that religious people are particularly prone to indulge in. It may be the sin most readily tolerated by the church.
We have greatly underestimated the necessity of joy. Nehemiah said to his grieving congregation, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep. . . . Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Joy is strength. Its absence will create weakness.
Joy is God’s basic character. Joy is his eternal destiny. God is the happiest being in the universe. And God’s intent was that his creation would mirror his joy. The psalmist speaks of the sun, “which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.” This is not merely picturesque language; this is creation expressing God’s own unwearying joy at simply being, at existing and knowing existence to be good. As products of God’s creation, creatures made in his image, we are to reflect God’s fierce joy in life.
You can become a joyful person. With God’s help, it really is possible. The biblical writers would not command it if it were not so. But joyfulness is a learned skill. You must take responsibility for your joy. Not your friend, not your parent, not your spouse, not your kids, not your boss—your joy is your responsibility.
The psalmist says, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” “This is God’s day,” the psalmist says. It is the day God made, a day that Christ’s death has redeemed. If we are going to know joy, it must be in this day—today.
What have you learn about joy recently? In what ways might understanding more about the joy of the Lord affect your view of joy?