As a teacher of the Bible, one of the questions that I am most often asked is, “Where is all the joy?”
And interestingly this comes equally from believers looking to find it in their own life and from non-believers who are looking for it in the lives of believers. Seemingly everyone knows that scripture contains promises for joy and at the same time almost everyone is trying to glimpse some manifestation of it.
Why does joy seem to be so often missing from our lives and from our culture?
The obvious answer is that joy is not a synonym for “happy” or “pleasure”…to often we are taught, just think about almost all advertising, that joy requires being happy or doing something pleasurable. Simply, this is not true.
Happiness is dependent on circumstances to a great extent and so is pleasure. We feel happy or find pleasure in doing certain things, and what for some is pleasure for others is horrible (reading for example). In these circumstances, we find happiness but happiness is always fleeting because circumstances change, that is just the way it works.
Joy, however, is something much deeper and therefore must be based on something much more stable than circumstances. And in scripture joy is combined with one thing consistently (read the Kingdom sections in Isaiah): salvation brought by being in the presence of God.
Joy is found when we know that the Lord delights in us (Is. 62:4), when we are clothed in the garments of salvation (Is. 61:10), when the ransomed return (Is. 35:10), and when we “see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God” (Is. 35:1-2).
And it is this last phrase that I believe holds the key for joy – Joy is found in seeing the glory of God. Joy is received when we revel in the fact that God delights in us. Joy becomes nourishment as we feed on the goodness of God.
Joy comes not from our circumstances but from our God. Joy is knowing “that he is God and the he is my God” (Marva Dawn).