What Even Is Joy?

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If you read the introduction to this blog, you’ll know that joy is such a big part of my life. Joy, and my ability to hold onto it, is oftentimes the only thing that will get me through the day. 

But what even is joy? When you hear the word “joy,” what comes to mind? 

Before my supernatural experience with joy, I would say that joy means to feel very happy in a moment, usually because of something happening in your life.

But y’all, I am so happy to report that I was wrong. 

Want to know something about me? I hate being wrong — I hate it with a burning passion. Being wrong, to me, equates to being a failure (which is a bad and hurtful mentality; trust me). But sometimes, like in this instance, being wrong is a good thing.

You see, joy is not just feeling very happy because of something going on in your life. Joy is so much better than that. 

How do I know that? Let’s look at scripture.

James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

If joy is based on circumstances, how can we “consider it pure joy” when we go through tough times? I don’t know about you, but I don’t naturally “consider it pure joy” when I “face trials of many kinds.” 

Psalm 30:5 says, “…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” 

If we’re crying and in pain before we go to bed, then obviously the problem isn’t solved, right? So then, how does one rejoice in the morning when the problem is still there?

Therefore my conclusion is this: joy is not derived and determined based on the circumstances in our lives; joy comes from the Lord. 

Romans 15:13 supports this statement by saying, “ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So now that it is established that joy comes from the Lord and NOT from the things happening around us, what does joy actually mean?

When I first experienced my Romans 15:13 moment, this is the question I began to ask myself.

Have you ever received a gift on Christmas or your birthday, and you open it up and you’re so excited to have it, but you have no idea what it is or how to properly use it? 

Personally, I have experienced that more than once in life, and I draw a line between this and receiving joy from the Lord.

For someone like me that was so devoid of joy for so long, it’s like receiving a gift that we don’t truly know how to use or even what it is. So in this blog post, I’m going to cover what joy truly is, and my next installment will explain how to properly wield it. 

If you search the definition of joy in a dictionary, I promise you’ll be sorely disappointed. Merriam-Webster describes joy as this: “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

As previously stated, this definition is deeply flawed.

John Piper, pastor and author, described joy as, “…a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”

This was the first definition of joy that I found that truly embodied what God designed for it to be. 

When we experience joy, we will feel “very happy” as I originally thought. But, contradictory to my initial assumption, joy is produced by the Holy Spirit. And when we experience this joy from the Lord, we can see the beauty in everything around us, despite negative circumstances. 

The second definition of joy I found was from Rick Warren, another well-known author and pastor. When I read his definition, I identified with it and had that Aha, this is it! moment. I simply and truly fell in love with it.

Warren said, “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 every situation.”

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 every situation.

Rick Warren

You see, I fell in love with this definition because it so accurately describes what God intended joy to be. 

In his definition, Warren described joy while still acknowledging anxiety, worry, concern, and The Choice. 

How so? Let’s break it down.

Addressing Anxiety 

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life…” 

I know anxiety can take on many different forms and attack one’s mind in many different areas, but for me, much of my anxiety comes from the unknown in life. I get anxious if I can’t tell if I’m on the right path, if I’m doing the right thing, or if I’m pleasing God with my actions each day. I get anxious when I make a wrong decision and I worry over how it’s going to affect me. 

All of this anxiety is produced by the unknown. 

But here, Warren says that joy doesn’t come from having everything together and knowing the plan and the way. No, he says that joy is resting assured that “God is in control of all the details of my life.”

When we don’t know the way, God does. When we don’t know what decision to make, we can rest assured that God does.

Personally, when I don’t have everything figured out, my life feels out of control and like a hot mess, and that honestly can make me feel stressed and depressed. But God is in control of ALL the details of my life — I can find joy in that. 

Psalm 139:16 backs this up by saying, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

He’s already got everything figured out. Find joy in that!

Addressing Worry and Concern 

“Joy is…the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright”

The dictionary definition of the word ultimately is “finally; in the end.” So what this statement is saying is that even in times of trouble, we can find joy in our confidence in God that He will work everything out for us in the end.

Romans 8:28 says, “ And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

ALL things work together for His children, guys. ALL things. So yes, we can have joy in the hard moments because we can rest assured that “ultimately everything is going to be alright.”

Addressing The Choice

“Joy is…the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

This is the most important step, so if you have to, read it again. Read it until it’s permanently ingrained in your mind. Write it down on a sticky note and place it on the bathroom mirror, in your car, on your desk at work. Set it as the lock-screen on your phone. Set alarms to remind yourself of this. Whatever you have to do to remind yourself of this, do it.

Why? Because experiencing joy is a choice.

We’ve discussed how joy is not determined by your circumstances, but it’s hard to remember that when we face trials and tribulations. 

It’s hard to remember that when you look at your bank statement. It’s hard to remember the truth when you’re staring at past due bills. It’s hard to remember this when you lose your job. It’s hard to remember that when you’re overlooked for a prestigious position. It’s hard to remember that when someone hurts you. It’s hard to remember that when you lose someone you love deeply.

In these hard moments, all we want to do is wrap ourselves up in our emotions and roll around in our misery. 

Come on, let’s be honest. We let negative emotions stomp all over us and crash over us like a large wave that keeps pushing us under the water before we can catch our breath.

I always tell people: feel the emotion because it’s real and valid, but don’t stay in it. Pick yourself back up and march on.

However, Duck Dynasty star Korie Robertson said it best. She once said, “It’s okay to be in a funk, but it’s not okay to stay in a funk.”

I heard that and thought That’s good stuff right there! And it is!

Of course if you lose someone it’s going to be hard; you’re going to mourn their passing. But you can’t remain in a state of mourning forever. Eventually, you have to move forward.

The same is true in all circumstances. Yes, we can feel upset by circumstances and experiences, but eventually we have to give it to God, learn from it, and move forward.

And when you’re in the midst of these hard times, you don’t have to be overcome with negative emotions. You can CHOOSE joy. 

“Joy is…the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” When we praise God and thank Him for being with us in the hard moments, for providing for us, and for all He does — if we remain in a heart posture of thankfulness at all times — we will experience joy, even in the hard moments.

In the next blog we’ll talk more about how to properly use joy in our everyday life, but I want to encourage you on this subject:

You do not have to wait for everything in your life to line up before you experience true joy. You don’t have to wait for the good moments to experience true joy. You have access to that joy through the Father at ALL times. 

Stop waiting for the perfect moment! Start living everyday in joy now!

Maddisen Sauls is the smile and voice behind the Everyday Joy blog as well as the author of the Word of the Week posts and the editor of by leaps and bounds. Throughout her life, Maddisen has worked as a reporter for small town newspapers, a School Age and Preschool teacher, and has acquired her ministerial license. 

An avid book reader and lover of the written word, Maddisen is passionate about using her favorite medium to reach the lost and the hurting, and to offer encouragement and hope to those struggling through life. 

Following her battle with depression, Maddisen has made it her mission to help other people through this journey and to bring joy to the lives of the people around her. 

You can find Maddisen on Instagram @maddisen.paige

1 comments on “What Even Is Joy?”

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