It’s one of my favorite words. Joyful is a word that is often used to describe me and if you know me, you know I love finding joy in the small simple things. I don’t require big gestures of grandeur to be able to find the joy. Joy is also the name of my summer home, my cabin at the Bible camp I volunteer at, and I have lots of “joy” decor. Joy is just a really great word. However, sometimes it’s rather difficult to find true, lasting joy in life.
I’ve often baffled people with my joyful and positive attitude. They don’t understand how I can be in a stressful or downright crappy situation and still find the silver lining and smile. Throughout high school and college, I worked at the local Dunkin’ Donuts. If you’ve worked fast food you know just how crazy, stressful, and exhausting it can be. I think sometimes I annoyed my coworkers and the customers were sometimes perplexed. I honestly loved working fast food. I loved the fast pace and the hustle of it all. I was good at it, like really good. I loved my customers too and had a good portion of orders memorized. The regulars would simply just have to say, “It’s me,” when they heard my voice on the intercom. I would typically be the one taking the orders for drive-thru and making them. On more than one occasion I can remember a customer coming to the drive-thru window and making a comment about how cheerful I sounded or questioning why I was so happy when I was running around making coffee. Honestly, it always threw me off guard. I wasn’t sure how to respond and I had to take a step back and examine what my source of joy was. Because my customers and coworkers were right, it wasn’t normal. On the flip side though, there have most definitely been times where I have felt absolutely no joy in my life and pasting a smile on my face felt like the most difficult thing I had to do. Even as someone who loves joy and is often described as a joyful person, holding on to joy in every season is hard and seemingly impossible in some periods of life.
What is the source of your joy? Is it your circumstances? Is it your family? Your significant other? Your children? Your job? The weather? As I began to examine my heart I had the realization that the source of my joy is from none of those things. Sure they make me happy and I love it when the sun shines, but does that mean my joy disappears when the clouds arrive? When I had the light bulb moment and realized where my joy was flowing from it all made sense.
God desires for us to find our joy in Him and in His word!
I learned the more time I spent with God and the more time I spent working on my relationship with God, the more joy was consistently present in my life. The Bible has a lot to say about joy. The word joy appears around 200 times in the Bible, not including it’s synonyms like “rejoicing“. Have you lost your joy? Or maybe you’re trying to find joy in all the wrong places.
Joy is found in the presence of God:
If Joy is lacking in your life the first thing you need to do is some self-examining. The Bible states that joy is found in the presence of God. Psalm 16:11 says that in God’s presence is an abundance of joy! Not just a smidge of joy, but an abundance. So if you’re struggling to find joy, my first question for you is how is your relationship with God right now? Is He first in your life or have you put Him on the back burner? I’m not here to judge you, because many times I have put God in a box in the corner of my heart, only bringing Him out of the box I created when it was convenient for me. If we want true joy we must put God first in our lives in everything at all times. We must be seeking him and intentionally devoting time to Him every single day.
You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.Psalm 16:11
In Deuteronomy 6:5 the Israelites were given the commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” These words were so important the Israelites were instructed to memorize them, teach them to their children, talk about them at home, on the road, in the morning when they woke, before they went to bed, to bind them and carry them on their person, and to write them on the doorposts of their homes and city gates. This commandment is so important that Jesus reiterates it in the gospel of Matthew. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment found in the law was he responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. “He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.‘” Matthew 22:37-38
If you love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength you are going to be spending time with Him and cultivating a relationship with your Creator. When you have a relationship with God He gives you Joy. At the moment of salvation, we are given the Holy Spirit and as we continue to grow in our relationship with God, the Holy Spirit bears fruit in our life, and joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Joy is found in creation:
This is an easy, simple, step in sparking joy in your life. God created this earth for our enjoyment. He didn’t make a lackluster place for us to live, but He was abundantly creative in making us this home. Even in the seemingly simplest pieces, we can find creativity and beauty. It brings me joy knowing that God loves me so much He gave me beautiful things to enjoy. My favorite color is yellow and when I find yellow in creation, it just brings me so much joy. I love seeing the speckles of yellow dandelions in the grass, the yellow of sunflowers and brown-eyed Susans, the golden stripes on honey bees, the bright yellow of finches, and the golden sunshine. I can’t look at it and not feel the joy. I love the smell before rain, the smell after rain, the smell of dirt, because well… I’m a country girl. I love the smell of the woods and how different trees have different scents. The feeling of a cool breeze on a hot summer day. The sound of the water flowing in the river or a bubbling brook. I love the way rocks have different hues and shades and I especially love smooth river rocks. I love the feeling of grass between my toes and the sun on my shoulders. I love it when the sky is a brilliant blue with scattered white puffy cumulus clouds. I love listening to the evening peepers and the morning songs of the birds. I love the intricacies of nature. There is joy in creation. Go outside and find the joy God has blessed us within the nature around us.
Joy is found in fellowship and unity:
When we have fellowship and unity with fellow believers it brings joy. Fellowship means friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests. So when we are having fellowship with people who are united in Christ, it is a beautiful overflowing of joy. In the past I have attended, volunteered, and hosted women’s retreats. These women’s retreats have been some of the most joyful gatherings I have ever attended because it is a group of women, united in their passion and hunger for Christ. Even though I was meeting some of these women for the very first time there was a sweetness of friendship found in our fellowship. If you don’t have Christians you can fellowship with, ask God to bring you friends. Ask God to open doors of opportunity for you to get involved in your church, to open doors for fellowship. Fellowship and unity doesn’t mean hanging out with people who are just like you. It means spending time with people who love Jesus. I’ve experienced immense joy in fellowshipping with people who are in their 80’s and people who are children, and people of all ages in between. Maybe you are in a season of waiting on Christian friends, but that doesn’t mean your life is without fellowship. 1 John 1: 3 says that our fellowship is ultimately with God. So going back to point number one… Fellowship with the One who created you. When we have fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, our joy is complete.
Make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.Philippians 2:2
Do you have fellowship with God? You may be able to answer that question confidently or maybe you’re not sure. There are four key elements to having fellowship with God.
- You need to have a personal relationship with God. This means you need to be saved; you need to believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you don’t believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, you cannot have fellowship with God.
- You need to keep short accounts. This means that you need to confess your sin regularly. Sometimes this looks like asking for forgiveness multiple times a day. Being saved from the penalty of sin does not mean you become sinless. The goal is to sin less and to become more like Christ each day. Sinning after salvation is unavoidable because we are human. When we sin it does not mean we lose our salvation, but if we allow it to accumulate we cannot be in a right fellowship with God. Our sin builds a wall and the wall separates us from the source of joy. Confess your sins. Tear down the wall.
- You need to read your Bible on a daily basis. The Bible is how we learn about God and how He speaks to us. Don’t expect God to speak to you through a burning bush and audibly hearing his voice. Open His Word and listen for the still small voice stirring in your soul. When you seek Him you will find Him.
- You need to be praying. Prayer is how we talk to God. Prayer does not need to look like getting down on your hands and knees with your hands clasped together, although there is nothing wrong with that. You can pray in your head, you can pray in your car, you can pray at work, you can pray in your journal, you can pray all day long. Talk to God about everything and anything. Take it all to Him, lay it all down at His feet. The good, the bad and the ugly. Yes, He already knows everything, but He desires for you to talk with Him. God craves intimacy with His children and we should crave that intimacy with Him.
Joy is found in trials:
This one is tough. Finding joy in trials seems like a bit of an oxymoron. How can you be joyful when you’re enduring trials and sufferings? Peter encourages believers by telling us that we should not be surprised when testings come, but instead to rejoice that we are suffering for Christ because we will someday have great joy when we see Jesus in His full glory. Peter went through a lot of trials and testings. In the book of Acts it describes how Peter was threatened, imprisoned more than once, and his close friends, the other apostles were being murdered. Peter knew what it was to endure suffering, but he also knew that the suffering he was enduring was not worth comparing to the joy that was sure to come. Paul also knew what it was to suffer and Paul wrote about joy a lot in the new testament. Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and he was also receiving news of fellow believers that were being murdered. It was Paul who wrote “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Paul also wrote the book of Philippians, which contains the words “joy” and “rejoice” more than any of his other books, while he was in jail.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials…James 1:2
Peter, Paul, and the other apostles were able to find joy through their sufferings because they had an eternal mindset. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are risen with Christ, we are not to be seeking earthly things with an earthly and temporal mindset, but seeking things above, seeking Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom. If Paul could sing praises to God while sitting in a dark, cold, damp prison after being beaten then so can we. The same Spirit that was in Paul, is in us. Paul’s focus was Christ and sharing the gospel and because of this, despite the various trials that came his way he still had joy.
I’ve learned that being joyful is more of a choice than an emotion. Happiness is an emotion. Happiness is fleeting and can be gone at a moment’s notice. But joy… True joy is not fleeting, because true joy is found in Christ. It is easy to lose your joy when you allow your focus to be pulled to the world. When your eyes are taken off of Christ you give the world and all of its many burdens the opportunity to snatch your joy. But when your eyes are on Christ your joy cannot be stolen no matter what comes your way.
Do you see it? Do you feel it? I’ll say it again, joy is found in Christ. Go back to the first commandment. Love God with all of your everything. He doesn’t promise us a perfect and easy life. He promises to sustain us, to be our strength, to be our joy. We will have tough times and that’s okay. But you don’t have to let the tough times rob you of your joy in Christ and the joy in the eternity we have been promised. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Go pursue your joy in Christ.
Valerie loves going on adventures, spending time in nature, and getting lost in the wonders of God’s creation. She works in the 6th grade resource room at the local middle school, co-runs a faith-based youth mentoring program, and is actively involved in Bible camp ministry. Valerie loves mentoring other women, teens and children. She has an obsession with pens and stocking up on beautiful journals. Valerie’s greatest joy is sharing Jesus with others. Her greatest desire is to know Him more deeply and make Him known. You can find her on Instagram @valerieeejayyy