Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

What Does it Mean to Have True Joy?

  • Clarence L. Haynes Jr. Contributing Writer
  • 2021 8 Feb
happy woman smiling in the rain with sunshine peaking through clouds, what is joy

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

Joy is a short word that packs a lot of punch. Dictionary.com defines joy in this way: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying. When I consider that definition and others that are similar it makes me wonder is this what it means to have true joy or did God have something different in mind? If you will indulge me let’s unpack this whole idea of what it means to have true joy not from how the world sees it but from how God defines it.

What Does the Bible Say Joy Is?

When the Bible speaks about joy there are some different words used to express joy. Here are five examples.

1. Joy as a ringing cry or joyful shout.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. – Psalm 126:5

2 . Joy as gladness or to be made glad.
A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother. – Proverbs 10:1

3 . Joy as exultation, pleasure, and delight.
When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.Jeremiah 15:16

4. Joy meaning to sing aloud or joyfully sing
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I whom you have delivered. – Psalm 71:23

5. Joy as a delight that comes from recognizing God’s grace and God’s favor.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kindsJames 1:2

When you consider these different verses, it helps you understand that joy flows from the inside out. Something inside you bubbles up and it flows or erupts out of your heart. Based on these verses let’s create a new working definition of joy: an internal reservoir or well that bubbles up inside you eventually expressing itself in shouts of song, praise, and great delight.

How Do We Get Joy?

I think you would agree that joy is a wonderful gift. How then do you acquire this kind of joy? There are three sources of joy found in Scripture Let’s consider all three.

1. Joy from the Presence of God

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

Joy that is a wellspring has its origin in the presence of God. This means that God is the true author and giver of real joy. You cannot spend time in God’s presence and not come away filled with joy. Think of any time you have had in worship and dwelling in God’s presence. I am sure you walked away refreshed, renewed, and filled with joy.

2. Joy from the Spirit of God

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. – Galatians 5:22 (bold emphasis added)

In this sense, fruit represents the character or the true representation of what is on the inside of a person. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy. If you want more joy then you need more of the Holy Spirit working in your life. If the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you richly and you are being filled with the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, you will experience joy in your life. There is nothing you can even do about it because it is a byproduct of God’s Spirit dwelling in your heart.

3. Joy from the Word of God

I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great treasure. – Psalm 119:162 (AMP)

When you discover the truth and receive revelation from God’s Word it produces joy in your heart. There is something about when God opens your eyes, and you can see the truth from Scripture that causes joy to spring up in your soul. This is why you cannot neglect the Word of God because within its pages is not only the truth for life but a great source for joy.

What Is the Result of This Type of Joy?

Let me share with you two things that come from having true joy.

1. Strength
I would encourage you to read Nehemiah 8. Here is a very shortened version. Ezra stands to read God’s Word to the people. The words that were being read and explained to them were so impactful that all the people could do was weep. After a while, Nehemiah stood up and this is what he said. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”Nehemiah 8:10 (bold emphasis added)

Sometimes life hits you hard and you are overwhelmed. Sometimes you are simply tired and have no strength to continue. In these moments God’s joy can be the thing that gives you the strength to keep going. You can stand strong because you have God’s joy flowing in you and through you.

2. Endurance
I want to revisit a verse I mentioned earlier. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. – James 1:2

What is the role that joy plays in the midst of trials? In this case, it gives you endurance. It gives you the ability to stand up and stand under the trials and circumstances of life. As we said earlier this joy is coming because of recognition of God’s grace and God’s favor. You see the trial as a blessing of God’s grace and favor allowing you to experience it. I know we don’t often think of trials in this manner but the joy comes not because of the trial but because of the result of the trial. When you understand that then the joy gives you the endurance to stand up under it.

Is There a Difference between Joy and Happiness?

Before we end this conversation about what does it mean to have true joy, I want to address one final thing. Is there a difference between joy and happiness? While there are some similarities between happiness and joy there is one major difference in my opinion. Here is how I will define it. Happiness is because of. Joy is in spite of. Happiness comes as a result of the things that are happening in your life. When things are happy and good then that produces happiness. This comes from outside and works its way in. Joy on the other hand comes in spite of. While the things happening around you can in fact produce joy, your joy is not dependent on those things. Because joy flows from the reservoir inside of you it has the ability to sustain you even if nothing on the outside gives you a reason to rejoice. This is why you can have joy in the midst of trials, hardships, or even some of the difficult places in life because it is springing up from what is inside.

You should really rejoice and be thankful for the source of true joy. When you think about all the sources of true joy, God’s presence, God’s Spirit, and God’s Word are all eternal. This means that you can have true everlasting joy in the middle of any situation. It reminds me of the words to an old song; this sums up what true God given joy really is.

"This Joy that I have the world didn’t give to me
The world didn’t give it the world can’t take it away"
- written by Shirley Caesar

When God is the source of your joy there is nothing in this world that can ever take it away. I guess when you think about it that is the meaning of true joy.

In closing, enjoy this unplugged rendition of This Joy That I Have the World Didn't Give it to Me from Marsha Carther and Dave Walser.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/torwai


Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com




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