Most people think joy arrives when our circumstances are right, but that’s not joy, that’s happiness. The spiritual fruit of joy transcends circumstances. Although it's usually defined as an emotion, joy is something more—it’s a spiritual force arising from the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The spiritual fruit of joy transcends circumstances.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
For example, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines joy like this: “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” This definition assumes joy is derived from our situation. If this is true, a person could not have joy if his or her circumstances were not favorable.
The Fruit of Joy Transcends Circumstances...
But Jesus told us to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” when we face persecution (Matthew 5:11-12), and James said to “Consider it all joy when we fall into various trials.” (James 1:2) Therefore, the fruit of joy has to be more than a natural human emotion; it is the presence of the Lord helping us through tough times.
Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of circumstances.
I don’t know how you are, but I’m always thinking, “If I can just get past this next thing, then it’s going to be smooth sailing, and I’ll have joy.” But when I get past that thing, there’s always another thing, and then another. We can’t wait to bear the fruit of joy until we have passed all the “things” that come into our lives, because those things are our life, and God helps us have joy in the midst of them. This means there’s no better time to be joyful than right now.
We have joy when we are in a right relationship with God.
Christ brought us into a right relationship with God, and we partake of His grace and “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2) God is not mad at us, and His chief desire is to see us develop our full potential in Christ. His thoughts toward us are thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give us a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) His thoughts about us are higher than our thoughts about ourselves! (Isaiah 55:8-9) He accepts, loves, and enjoys us. As our cheerleader, He encourages us to keep moving forward on the right path. We may be discouraged for a moment, but the Spirit of Christ rises within to get us going again.
On the other hand, if your relationship with God means constantly analyzing everything you do wrong, you won’t exude the fruit of joy. Remember, your Father is excited about the positive changes you are making to become a better person and fulfill your divine purpose. Our Lord is not a negative, condemning Person, but an inspiring, positive One.
However, if we try to hide sin in our life and refuse to confront it, it will steal our joy. Maintaining a clean conscience is vital to living in joy. If you sin before God, repent, and He will forgive you. If you do someone wrong, go and apologize. Don’t carry that burden around. With God on our side, we don’t wallow in failures, but turn them into successes.
You should beat yourself up over your past sins only for a season of repentance. After that, move on from sin-consciousness to righteousness-consciousness, for by God's grace you are the righteousness of God in Christ. I didn't make this up. It's what Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5:21. When we finally relax and accept the awesome gift that Jesus gave us—the free gift of righteousness—we can begin living in the joy of our salvation. The law will always condemn us, but the Spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death. The Spirit doesn't set us free to sin but to enjoy a right relationship with God as our Father. (Romans 8:2)
We can be joyful in the midst of trouble.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Don’t let trouble steal your joy. There’s a time to grieve over the bad that happens, but there’s a time to stop mourning and move forward. When the devil can’t steal your joy, he can’t rob your life. The fruit of joy protects you from discouragement, despair, and depression, for Jesus is the lifter of your head. (Psalm 3:3) When chaos swirls around you, it doesn't depress the Lord. In fact, He loves to organize chaos and turn it into something beautiful, like He did in the beginning.
Don’t let other people steal your joy.
Your joy witnesses to people that you are stable even in unfavorable circumstances. Others may try to drag you down into their unhappiness, but you can help them best if you don’t go there with them. Keep your joy and pray for them to be delivered out of that pit.
We experience the Lord’s joy when we do the right thing.
Jesus said that when we do the right thing His joy would remain in us and our joy would be full. Someone called this “the joy of conscious integrity.” When the Lord’s joy overflows in our hearts, we experience joy.
John 15:10–11 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
There are far more uses of the word joy than we can discuss, so here are some more for your meditation:
We have joy when God commends us for using the gifts He gave us.
Good and faithful servants enter into the joy of the Lord.
Matthew 25:21, 23, Luke 12:42, Luke 12:37, 1 Peter 4:10
We have joy when we have hope.
The Joy of Salvation
Isaiah 12:3, Psalm 35:9, Psalm 51:12, Habakkuk 3:18, Acts 8:8, Acts 13:52
The Joy of Worship
Psalm 43:4, Luke 24:52, Psalm 33:3, Psalm 35:9, Psalm 67:4, Psalm 81:1, Psalm 98:4
Joy from God’s Word
Jeremiah 15:16, Matthew 13:20, Luke 8:13
The Joy of the Resurrection
Matthew 28:8, Luke 24:41, Luke 24:52, John 16:22
The Joy of the Lord
John 15:10–11, John 17:13, Nehemiah 8:10-11, Philippians 3:1
The Joy of Answered Prayer
Joy in the Holy Spirit
Romans 14:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:6
Joy in Trials
James 1:2, Psalm 30:5, Isaiah 61:3, Jeremiah 31:13
Even through tears on the outside
There is joy on the inside. God’s grace is sufficient.