Do you ever just sit back and think about the word “joy”? It’s not a word used too often in our culture anymore. What does it even mean? Is it just a synonym for “happiness,” or is it something else entirely? The dictionary defines “joy” as: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Okay that seems like a good enough description, right? Except, it just seems to be missing something.
The Bible speaks of joy as if it is an uncontrollable force pulsing through the universe:
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” Psalm 100:1
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…” Psalm 30:11
“When anxiety was great within me, your consultation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19
“Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy…” Psalm 98:8
“You have made the dawn and the sunset to shout for joy…” Psalm 65:8
Our culture explains joy as a feeling of great happiness, but the joy God offers is something so much more than just feeling happy. The joy God offers should bring us to a point where we can’t help but to sing His praises—to SHOUT for joy. In fact, it is so powerful that creation itself sings His praises. And, if we are looking and listening for it, we will find it. We hear it in the power and majesty of the ocean’s crashing waves. We hear it as trees gently sway in the breeze, and birds whistle sweet melodies. We see it when the sun begins to lift over the horizon, and when the combination of the sun’s light and moisture in the air form vibrant, colorful rainbows. Everything God has created sings His praises because He created it to do so. However, God’s most prized creation, humans, gifted with freewill, are the only ones He allows to choose not to sing His praises.
Okay, so we’ve established that God’s joy is powerful, but what is it? In a word, it is “hope.” When we receive God’s joy, we are experiencing hope—real hope. That’s how God is able to turn our sorrow into gladness. That’s how He is able to turn our wailing into dancing. God created us to look for something in which we can place our hope. The unfortunate truth is too many of us place our hope in things and people that will eventually let us down. And, when that happens, we lose our hope, and in turn, we lose our joy.
I think what we’re experiencing in today’s culture is a joy drought. We’ve become obsessed with our smartphones, social media, and reality television shows in an attempt to scrape up a little happiness. We think if we can just entertain ourselves at all times, we can feel joy. But, while all the vacations, food, entertainment and new toys can bring us momentary pleasures, we keep coming up empty because joy can’t be purchased; it can only be given. In order to experience God’s joy, real joy, we just have to receive it.
The good news is God offers His joy freely, and He never stops the flow. If we aren’t feeling and experiencing His joy, it’s because we don’t have our cup ready to receive. When our cup is upright and ready to be filled, He will fill it so full it will overflow. And that overflow of joy is called “rejoicing.” The trees do it by simply lifting their branches toward the sun. The ocean does it by crashing along the shoreline. We do it when we have allowed God to fill us with so much of His real, uncontrollable joy that we can’t help but to rejoice in His glory.
God’s joy is the overflow of the hope offered through Jesus. Is your cup ready to receive? His hope is flowing.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13