I experienced an amazing period of joy and peace after a conversion experience as a senior in high school (you can read about it here). Over time, the elation and contentment I felt began to diminish as I slogged through the stuff of daily living. Now, years later, and after having persevered through periods of intense suffering and times that felt like God was absent, I have come to recognize a joy and peace that has remained despite my circumstances. I’ve seen this same joy alive in the hearts of other Christians, too. At the same time, I’ve met many believers who seem to live a joyless existence. What’s up with that?
What Is Joy?
Joy is the delight in our heart that comes from an encounter with God.
Joy is a human experience. We feel emotions of exuberance, elation, and pleasure. Joy fills us with energy, and sometimes we feel like singing and dancing. But like all temporal things, these feelings are fleeting and fade.
Christian joy is also supernatural. Our joy is born in us through the action of the Holy Spirit. Joy—along with love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—is called a fruit of the Holy Spirit because it results from the work of the Spirit within us. Just as no situation or physical state can separate us from God and His Spirit, no circumstance can keep us from God’s gift of joy. While our emotions wax and wane, there is a deeper movement in our spirit that remains.
But where do you find joy? How do you get it? And once you have it, how do you keep from losing it?
There is only one way to know everlasting joy: to receive Christ. Through him alone do we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who produces His fruit within us. We recognize that the transitory nature of this life cannot give us a lasting peace nor satisfy the yearning of our soul. We turn to the only One who can fill our emptiness: Jesus.
Jesus told a parable about a sower in a field who scattered seed on different soils (see Matthew 13:1-9). The first seed falls on a path and gets trampled, and it fails to sprout. The second is cast on rocky soil. It sprouts, but soon dies off for lack of a root system. The third portion ends up among thorns that soon choke off further growth. Other seed falls on rich soil, where it grows and yields fruit.
This story has implications for our experience of joy. Some hear the Good News but fail to grasp it and never come to know Christ. Others seem to receive the Gospel and experience a momentary happiness. But they go no further and fail to develop a relationship with Christ. Their joy fades. At first, they may wonder what happened, but even the little faith they have will wither away. The third group represents Christians who receive Christ and seek to follow him. But the cares and concerns of life take over and choke the spiritual life out of them. They lose their joy. We’ll take a closer look at the second and third groups in the next two weeks.
Finding Joy is the first of a four-part series on joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.