I feel like joy is one of those things that we all know we have access to, we want to have it, but we can’t quite put our finger on what it actually is. We often associate joy with a feeling - particularly happiness. We think of joyful people as those that smile, those who enjoy life, those who would say they are ‘happy.’ However, if you look at scripture, you find that joy is not attributed as merely an emotion, but rather a state of being that can be had in all circumstances by the power of the Holy Spirit.
James 1:2 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds..” I don’t know about you, but when I am under trials of many kinds I do not smile, I am not enjoying my life and I am not happy - at least not while I am in the middle of it. However, we can still have joy in trials - because joy is not the emotional reaction you have to your circumstances, joy is the ability to rest in hope & trust of God’s goodness in the midst of any circumstance. Joy is equally accessible in the best of times & the hardest times - it is not contingent on circumstances, it is contingent on the Holy Spirit. You can have joy when you are angry, sad, frustrated - as long as you remember who God is & who he says you are. Isaiah 55:12 says “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” This section in Isaiah is titled “Invitation to the Thirsty” - this verse indicates that joy is also a direction, a posture that you inhabit as you live life with God.
Translation: If you are living a life surrendered to the Holy Spirit, you can always have joy.
So, how do we live in this posture? Now that we know we can have joy, what does that practically look like? “Going out in joy” looks like remembering God’s character when we don’t understand our circumstances. It looks like spending time reflecting on God’s promises, reading his word\listening for his voice, it looks like choosing to hope when our circumstances tempt us to doubt & despair. It looks like looking at our trials through the lens of what God can do through them. It looks like giving ourselves to worship when we are discouraged.
Joy is not a 12 step process, it is not a formula - it is simple. It is a state of being that we gain more and more of as we surrender every part of our lives to the Holy Spirit’s truth, leading and direction. My encouragement to you today is to spend time meditating on God’s character and asking for more of the Holy Spirit - as you do that, joy will come!