I’ve just written a whole month’s worth of guided meditations on the book of Philippians for my SoulShaper subscribers. Philippians is known for being a book about joy. Paul’s joyful attitude rings from the pages as he writes to the Philippian church from his Roman imprisonment. But, I’m still somehow struggling to understand joy, to have a real grasp of what it should look like. Maybe I’m overthinking it (who, me?!), but I thought I’d take a look at some other verses about joy and see what more I can learn.
“25 different Hebrew words and 10 Greek words make up over 150 references to joy in the Bible.
(Ever had a hard time defining biblical joy? This explains why!)” Kira Bridges
At least I’m not alone! First, let’s look at the dictionary definition of joy as a starting point. Dictionary.com says that joy is, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation”’ For clarity’s sake, “joy” is a noun and “rejoice” is a related verb. You can think of joy as primarily what you feel like on the inside and rejoicing as how that spills out of you.
Theopedia describes Biblical joy as, “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.”
Here are a few examples of how prominent pastors describe joy:
“Christian joy is 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.” John Piper
“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
Quotes from the dictionary and pastors are nice, but it’s the Bible that really counts, right? It’s the verses about joy that can really teach us truth. Here are twenty-eight scripture passages and verses about joy. This is absolutely not an exhaustive list. It’s the verses the Spirit prompted me to look at today. Let’s see what we can learn from them.
Verses About Joy
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:9-11)
All discussions of Christian joy must begin with the person of Christ and his work of salvation. The news of his coming into our world was news of great joy. The same is true today, the news of Christ is good news of great joy. The kind of joy that changes lives.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
Living with joy, being joyful, experiencing joy isn’t a suggestion or an option. It’s a natural part of the life of a Christ-follower. Paul says do it, but he also says do it always! Always means in every situation, circumstance, or place you find yourself.
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)
Joy is a fruit of the spirit. The experience of joy in a believer’s life—the kind Paul referred to in the previous passage—comes from the Spirit’s work in us. It’s not manufactured as a line item to be checked off the “who a Christian is supposed to be” list. It’s a natural byproduct of a life lived in surrender to the Holy Spirit.
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)
Our salvation, the completed work of Christ on the cross, brings us so much joy! Peter calls it, inexpressible and glorious! Does that describe your experience?
You reveal the path of life to me;
in your presence is abundant joy;
at your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11)
If you’re looking for more joy in your life, this gives you one easy, very clear path to more joy. Abundant joy is found in God’s presence.
You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:5-7)
We’re going to suffer grief in this world. We’ll have various kinds of trials. But we are told to rejoice in that through them, our (extremely valuable) faith will result in glory to God.
for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
The enemies of God can find joy in the things of the world. But as a believer, we find joy in something different. The source of our joy is different—God himself. We find joy in righteousness and peace springing from the person of God.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his faithful love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:32-34)
Let the sea and all that fills it,
the world and those who live in it, resound.
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the mountains shout together for joy
before the Lord,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world righteously
and the peoples fairly. Psalm 98:7-9)
You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;
the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)
These four verses about joy are all related to how the natural world God created is filled with joy before him. It resounds with joy at the thought of him coming to judge the earth. All of God’s creation praises him. We aren’t alone in our joy. This is a fascinating idea to me, the idea of nature celebrating its Creator with joy.
Don’t you know that ever since antiquity,
from the time a human was placed on earth,
the joy of the wicked has been brief
and the happiness of the godless has lasted only a moment? (Job 20:4-5)
Joy found in wickedness, in sin, or even in earthly things that aren’t sinful, is brief. It lasts for just a moment. That’s why it’s not satisfying to our souls, the joy doesn’t last. But, a joy found in Christ lasts forever.
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia: During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)
Joy can overflow to others, even in the midst of poverty, severe trials, and afflictions. When things really go south in life, we can still have joy not only in our own heart but also overflowing to others.
Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous ones;
praise from the upright is beautiful. (Psalm 33:1)
As we rejoice in God, he finds our praise beautiful. This includes you. Your praise is beautiful to God! No matter how stumbling your words, tentative your voice, or off-key your notes, your praise, your joy in the Lord is beautiful to him.
Sing to the Lord, you his faithful ones,
and praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor, a lifetime.
Weeping may stay overnight,
but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:4-5)
Hurting and tears will not last. They may be here for a time, even a lifetime…but not forever. God has set a limit on them and you can count on joy afterward.
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)
As you find sustenance in the Word of God. let scripture become a delight to you, the joy of your heart.
How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me. (Luke 1:43-44)
At the nearness of the infant Christ child, even the baby in Elizabeth’s womb responded in joy. You will also find joy in the nearness of Christ.
Sing to him; sing praise to him;
tell about all his wondrous works!
Honor his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:9-11)
Seek the Lord, sing to him, praise him, tell of his wonderful actions, honor his name, depend on his strength…and do so with joy.
Those who look to him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5)
Do you want to be radiant with joy? Look at Christ and he will be reflected in your life. Again, Christ is the source of joy. So if you want more joy, seek more Christ.
The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
I know most of these verses apply to our experience of joy and what that looks like from our perspective, but this verse is about God’s joy. What can make him feel joy? He delights in you. YOU! He actually finds joy in you! Do you believe that? How does it feel knowing an all-powerful God delights in you?!
Restore the joy of your salvation to me,
and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12)
Sometimes we can misplace our sense of joy, but it’s not gone forever. It can be restored!
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you
because you have redeemed me. (Psalm 71:23)
What causes us to shout for joy? Our salvation. If it doesn’t, if it doesn’t fill you with joy, ask God to restore your joy and for a clear picture, a new understanding of what Christ’s death means for you.
As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
“I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12)
Abiding in Christ completes Jesus’ joy in us and completes our joy as well. Obedience keeps us in the love of Jesus. And that brings us joy. Not exactly what the world says will bring us joy!
Serve the Lord with reverential awe
and rejoice with trembling. (Psalm 2:11)
Our joy isn’t going to always feel like bliss and happiness. Here the psalmist is telling us to rejoice with trembling because of our fear of the Lord, the reverential awe with which we regard him properly. Just because you aren’t feeling blissful or ultimate happiness, doesn’t mean you cannot be experiencing joy. In other words, joy isn’t only unicorns and rainbows!
You crown the year with your goodness;
your carts overflow with plenty.
The wilderness pastures overflow,
and the hills are robed with joy. (Psalm 65:11-12)
Frankly, I included this verse because I just love the idea of it. Life is abundant with God and even the hills are robed with joy. What a beautiful picture.
For our hearts rejoice in him
because we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:21)
We rejoice because we trust. Joy springs from trust.
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)
When you’re struggling, where do you turn for comfort? God’s comfort brings joy in the midst of being “filled with cares”.
I hope these verses about joy have been helpful! My prayer for you today…
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)