What joy Isn't
Written by Kim Mihalec
Lots of books have been written about joy. Having joy! Finding joy! Keeping joy! But let's talk about what joy isn't.
What does the word joy bring to your mind? Happiness? Smiling a lot? Fun? While these are all very nice and acceptable, and may sometimes be a part of joy, they certainly don’t provide us with a complete understanding of what joy really is.
In Galatians 5:22 the Bible lists joy as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If we think about what fruit is, it's the product of a particular type of tree. An apple comes from an apple tree; a peach from a peach tree, etc. So the source of true lasting joy is the Holy Spirit. If we want to know what joy is or isn't, we need an example of someone full of the Holy Spirit and consider how joy was expressed in his or her life.
Thankfully, we have the perfect example in Jesus Christ. Since He was the essence of God poured into a man everything He did, said and thought was perfect. That means we can look at the life of Jesus Christ to help us better understand joy.
We might be tempted to think that joy is just an expression of the Holy Spirit in good times but, if we look at the rest of the fruits of the Holy Spirit -- love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self–control -- I think it's clear that these are a full-time expression of the Holy Spirit.
Not being any of those fruits temporarily means not expressing the essence of who God the Father and Jesus Christ are. God isn't just loving sometimes or patient sometimes. If God only had self-control sometimes, humanity would probably have been wiped out centuries ago! In other words, like all the other fruits of the Spirit joy is for every minute of every day – in good times and bad times. Because we are flawed human beings and growing into the image of God it does take time for us to be able to express joy full time – just as our Saviour did.
So, based on the life of Jesus, let's talk about three things that joy isn't.
1) Joy isn't being happy all the time. John 11:33 records that Jesus “...groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” In John 12:27, just before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say?” The prophet Isaiah even predicted that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would be “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
2) Joy isn't smiling all the time. The Bible tells us in John 11:35 that just before He resurrected Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept. We also read in Luke 19:41 that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. By His example we can see that in sad and difficult times in life it is ok to cry. Not only that, it's ok for strong men to cry.
3) Joy isn't pretending that things are ok when they're not. Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19 all record how Jesus overturned tables in the temple and drove out the people buying and selling. Jesus Christ was rightly angered by the lack of respect for the temple as God's house of prayer, and He said so! Likewise, Jesus Christ spoke out many times during His ministry on earth against the religious leaders of the Jews as hypocrites. What He didn't do was pretend that He didn't really mind or that it didn't really matter.
These are just a few examples, but there are many more that show that our perfect Saviour, Jesus Christ, experienced and expressed sorrow and anger, yet this never diminished His capacity for deep inner joy. We too can bear the fruit of joy even while experiencing and dealing with the trails and challenges of life. The key to fully understanding and living real joy is to have Jesus Christ living in us, by and through the gift and power of the Holy Spirit. Then (and only then) we can truly understand not only what joy isn't, but what it IS.
Scripture tells us that we, too, need to undergo a transformation - a change, with God's help, from "the old man" to "the new man," a human being "renewed in knowledge" and "created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:22-24). In this lesson we discuss this remarkable change, made possible by the transforming power of God's Spirit.