What Is Joy?

Overwhelming. Unshakeable. Indescribable.

Those are words I use now to describe joy. But for years, I only knew joy on an emotional level. During the Christmas season, it was the warmth and happiness I felt when decorating my tree, donating hats and coats to those less fortunate, cozying up by a crackling fire, singing “Silent Night” by candlelight on Christmas Eve, and spending time with loved ones.

But, no matter how hard I tried to hold onto that emotion, it always faded. You see, I had no internal source from which to draw. Desperate for fulfillment, I garnered happiness from every situation possible. And with the holidays came even grander expectations. But regardless how many good moments I managed to collect, it was never enough to fill the void within.

Then I met Jesus, and I was plunged into a sea of joy I’d never known before. For the first time in my life, I experienced joy from within.

Then I met Jesus, and I was plunged into a sea of joy I’d never known before. For the first time in my life, I experienced joy from within. This newfound jubilation made me feel bulletproof, as if God’s joy would grant me safe haven from the “yuck” of this world and I would never feel unhappy again. But, when things in my life started to fall apart, and I lost grip on my peace of mind, I questioned Him.

I know You are there, but why can’t I feel Your joy?  

God helped me see that joy isn’t an emotional experience but a deep understanding of His grace, and that joy is in His presence. “You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy. In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.” (Psalm 16:11 WEB)

If joy is found in God’s presence, then the reason mine was fading became clear. I was allowing heartache, stress, and fear take my focus off of Him.

woman with arms extended, gazing aheadAs I refocused on God, I wondered what would happen to my problems. Would they be removed? If they weren’t, how could there still be “joy”? What moved was my perspective. I realized that God’s joy extends far beyond happiness-that joy is the essence of everything He is to us. His presence is joy. His salvation is joy. Jesus within us is joy. His love, strength, peace, mercy, forgiveness, comfort, freedom, protection, truth, glory, justice, guidance and sovereignty are all joy.

But now I come to you, and I say these things in the world, that they may have my joy made full in themselves.”  (John 17:13 WEB)

Image of Christian speaker Christa CottamI saw that joy meant relying on God’s strength when I’d lost every ounce of mine, His peace when my world crumbled around me, His comfort when grief left me weary, and His assurance when the ground beneath me shook.

If that isn’t joy, then what is?

God’s joy is the reason for my best days, but it’s also the reason I’m not defeated on my worst days. And while His joy is beautiful when all is well, it’s absolutely breathtaking when it stands fast through situations that should crush me.

This Christmas, whether things go as planned, or everything falls apart, I pray you receive a fresh revelation of God’s abiding joy.

Let’s talk about it! What is your experience with joy? Have you found lasting joy in your life, or do you often find yourself yearning for more?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or join the discussion on our Wholly Loved Facebook Page. And make sure to join us for our next Wholly Loved Conference in LaVista, because joy begins when we live wholly loved! Find out more HERE.

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