The Anatomy of Joy

Some of you remember the Gene Kelly movie “Singing In the Rain.” I recall the scene where he was so happy as he was singing while it was raining. Thinking of that made me wonder: how do we sing in the rain? In other words, when life is hard, how do we remain joyful?

The Apostle Paul commands us to be joyful. In Philippians 4:4, we are told to “rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Then in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, we are commanded to “rejoice always.” Then, in the letter of James, we are told to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2). We should count it joy because the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. I’m grateful for how God has used the testing of my faith to produce character in my life. But I also know that when you’re going through a trial experiencing joy can be very difficult. So how do we do that?

First, I think it’s important to understand what joy is. Joy is NOT the same thing as being happy. Joy is not emotionally driven. As Kay Warren stated, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.” So, joy does not mean that you will never hurt, or that you must “fake it ’til you make it” when life gets hard. It doesn’t mean that you have to plaster a smile on your face, and feel nothing. Joy means that despite your circumstances, you trust God. You know He is in control.

Let me mention two ways to experience joy in the midst of trials:

1. Connect with the person of joy.

The most joyful person is God. Now, many people have this faulty idea that God is a killjoy, a buddy-duddy. The truth is that God is always full of joy. And Jesus was the most joyful person ever to walk the earth. He enjoyed life. And ultimately, He placed His trust in the Father. He had that assurance and confidence, that despite any and every circumstance, God was in control.

2. Choose the perspective of joy.

Ultimately, joy is a choice. It’s not an emotion, it’s an act of the will. That’s why it could be commanded by Paul and James. When the rains come we have to choose to trust that God is in control, that He cares, and that He is there. And once we choose joy, God fills our hearts and minds with confidence and peace.

When missionaries in Northern Alaska were translating the Bible into the Eskimo language, they discovered that there was no word in their language for “joy.” So, they drew from their experience…as they watched, they saw the happiest, most joyful moments in the Eskimo villages were in the evening when they fed their sled dogs. They’d go out and the dogs would yelp and wag their tails and get all excited. And so, out of that experience, they pulled the word for joy: “wagging their tails.” When you translate the passage where it says that the disciples, after the resurrection, saw Jesus, they were full of joy…for Eskimos… “When the disciples saw Jesus, they wagged their tails.”

May we all have the joy of the Lord as we connect with the person of joy, and choose the perspective of joy.

The Bronze Snake

Delight Yourself in the Trinity: Part 3, The Holy Spirit