As each new year approaches and I see posts on social media about choosing a word of the year, I often see the word, “joy” chosen. We’re all hungry for happiness, we all want more joy in life. Choosing the word, “happy”, though, seems selfish. Joy feels nobler somehow. And in Christian circles, we’ve decided it’s different than happiness. Happiness is for the world, joy is for Christians. My feelings about that is a whole different post.
My point today is that the desire for joy runs deep in our world, whether you’re a Christ-follower or not. And if you are, there can be some guilt attached to it. We’re supposed to be a joyful people. Joy is expected of us–not just as a cultural pressure, but as a scriptural mandate. But, often, we don’t feel joyful and we hesitate to admit it. Where does that leave us? With a desire to live joyful lives, but with an unclear picture of exactly what joy is and how to become more joyful. With this mini-series of articles, I hope to help you straighten that out! We’ve looked at a variety of verses about joy, I answered the question, “What is joy…really?”, and today, let’s figure out how to get more of it!
When I do a Google search for the term “more joy”, I get interesting responses. Most of them are similar to an article titled 14 Ways to Squeeze More Joy Out of Every Day, in which “top positive psychologists offer easy ways to infuse your days with pleasure.”
Unfortunately, infusing our days with pleasure is exactly the wrong way to go about finding joy in life. What can we do? Luckily, as a Christian, we have a clear direction!
How To Find More Joy in Life
The first thing is to realize that joy is a gift from God. The root word for joy in the Greek is chara, which is closely related to the Greek charis for “grace.” Joy is both a gift of God as well as a response to the gifts of God. Joy comes when we are aware of God’s grace and relish His favor. Gotquestions.org
More God = More Joy.
You reveal the path of life to me;
in your presence is abundant joy;
at your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11)
Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. (Galatians 5:22-23)
These verses tell us that abundant joy is found in your relationship with all persons of the Godhead. We see that abundant joy is found in the presence of God the Father. Peter tells us that inexpressible joy comes through our salvation, through believing in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. And finally, Paul tells us that joy is a natural outflow of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
If you want more joy in life, don’t pursue joy, instead, pursue God.
Those who look to him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5)
What is one practical way you can pursue a deeper relationship with God?
Joy Is Found in the Word of God
Your words were found, and I ate them.
Your words became a delight to me
and the joy of my heart,
for I bear your name,
Lord God of Armies. (Jeremiah 15:16)
Jeremiah has an odd word picture here. Who eats words? Other than, of course, dogs doing a homework favor for their favorite students. Let’s think about it. What happens when we eat something? We chew on it. We digest it. We absorb it. The nutrients in it help us in ways too numerous to mention. The cells of our bodies benefit.
We should be doing the same thing with the Word of God. We should be chewing on it, absorbing it, digesting it, letting its wisdom and instruction benefit our soul, help us live our lives, and grow us to maturity. I know that the more time I spend with the Word of God, reading, studying, meditating, and praying it, the more love I have for it. And it does become the joy of my heart.
How can you spend more time in God’s Word?
Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols. (Psalm 40:4 NLT)
You were hoping it would be easier, weren’t you? You were hoping I was going to spout some self-care tips, like treat yourself to something fun? Well, joy is no small prize and it seems to me, if it could come in a candy wrapper, it would be cheapened.
That’s why finding more joy in life is elusive, particularly in our culture. We don’t prize what will actually bring us joy. We find it difficult to trust. But, trusting God is going to lead to joy.
For our hearts rejoice in him
because we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:21)
Is there an area of your life where you’re struggling to trust God?
Joy Is Found in Obeying God
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! (John 15:9-11 NLT)
Well, if you weren’t real keen on trusting God, I’m pretty sure this route to joy will be even less popular! Obeying God and therefore remaining in his love brings joy. If that’s not opposite what our culture tries to sell us as the route to joy, I’m not sure what is! But, that’s what Jesus says. Obedience leads to joy.
Light shines on the godly,
and joy on those whose hearts are right. (Psalm 97:11)
Is disobedience is hindering your joy?
Joy Is Found in God’s Comfort
If I say, “My foot is slipping,”
your faithful love will support me, Lord.
When I am filled with cares,
your comfort brings me joy. (Psalm 94:18-19)
This well of joy is more appealing than obedience, right? Well, maybe! How do you typically find comfort? It’s really easy to reach for something other than God. For me, it’s often food, a habit I’m trying hard to break. Maybe for you, it’s Amazon purchases. A little retail therapy? Maybe it’s workouts, friends, and family. Maybe it’s feeding an addiction. All these are ways we look for comfort, and we may find it–temporarily. None of these things, none of the worldly things we chase, will comfort us for long. The comfort we find in Christ is permanent and unshakable. And that’s where more joy in life will be found.
How can you learn to reach for Christ when you need comforting?
That brings us back to this matter of how we can be joyful as a matter of discipline or of the will. How is it possible to remain joyful all the time? Paul gives us the key: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (emphasis added). The key to the Christian’s joy is its source, which is the Lord. If Christ is in me and I am in Him, that relationship is not a sometimes experience. The Christian is always in the Lord and the Lord is always in the Christian, and that is always a reason for joy. Even if the Christian cannot rejoice in his circumstances, if he finds himself passing through pain, sorrow, or grief, he still can rejoice in Christ. We rejoice in the Lord, and since He never leaves us or forsakes us, we can rejoice always. R. C. Sproul
The world will tell you that joy is found in serving ourselves in some way. There might be a snappy, appealing name for it, like self-care. But most of what the world around us suggests in order to find joy is self-serving. Occasionally, we’ll find someone recommending service or volunteering as a path for joy.
What the verses above make clear is that joy isn’t going to be found in doing or getting. Lasting joy is found in relationship. And not just any relationship, relationship with God.
I would have loved to write you an article that gave a simple step-by-step pathway to finding more joy in life. But that’s not how a relationship works. It’s messier, uncertain, and scary. It’s risky. It’s vulnerable. But the rewards are beyond measure. Consider a (partial!) list of what Paul went through in his life:
Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 NLT)
And yet, he penned a letter from prison that simply drips with joy. How could he do that? Where did his joy come from? The secret of Paul’s joy is found in his relationship with Christ. And that’s where the secret to finding more joy in life can be found for you, too!
Grow your relationship with God, be obedient, love his word, trust in him, and find your comfort in him and you will find that your joy naturally increases.