In Galatians 5:22, Paul lists joy as part of the fruit of the Spirit. The heart transformation that the Spirit brings wouldn’t be complete without joy. Life confronts us with different kinds of sorrow, worry, grief, and fear. However, the Holy Spirit arms us with joy as a helpful response so that we can endure through all of those life challenges.
Popularly, many Christians differentiate between joy and happiness. It must be made clear that the Bible makes no such differentiation between the two. Some Christians say that happiness is temporary, while joy is lasting. Happiness is based on emotions, while joy is not. Or that happiness is circumstantial, while joy is all-enduring. Saying that happiness is ungodly would be wrong. Psalm 144:15 says that happy are the people whose God is the LORD and Psalm 16:11 says that there is joy in the presence of God and pleasures evermore. It is not really that happiness is ungodly, while joy is godly. Though real joy is not dependent upon feelings, we also cannot disregard the contribution of emotion to its expression. Joy is that positive feeling that prevents one from being downcast while in the midst of a trying situation. In fact, joy and gladness have the same Hebrew word, simchah. With that in mind, perhaps we should look into the distinction between worldly and godly joy or happiness.
Worldly happiness is mostly focused on what makes a person feel good, regardless of the means by which it is pursued. Looking at the world as the source of happiness leads to an idolatrous life. One can easily bow down to wealth, fame, power and pleasure as the reason to be joyful. John warns us not to love the world for the desires of the flesh, as the desires of the eyes and the pride of life are not from the Father and are only temporal (1 John 2:15-17). When one gets all his joy or happiness from what the world offers, such happiness is shallow and will soon fade away. Negative circumstances can easily rob a person of joy. Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth, where they are easily destroyed, but to invest our heart in the treasures of heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). The Bible tells us stories of people who have fallen prey to the destruction that worldly happiness brings.
On the other hand, when joy is godly, it is not empty, but full of life, and enables a person to be joyful in every circumstance. One can only truly be filled with joy in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.). Trusting in God’s promises, even though one is faced with overwhelming odds, brings true and enduring joy (Psalm 5:11But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.). God bestows upon us the joy of salvation, from which we draw our confidence, knowing that God is our strength and protection (Isaiah 12:2-3). When the early Christians went through severe trials due to intense persecution, James exhorted us to consider it pure joy when we face trials of all kinds, as such testing produces perseverance that matures us (James 1:2-4). Regardless of the situation, the joy of the Lord allows us to remain joyful. In the world’s perspective, such joy is ridiculous and hard or even impossible to practice. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit bears that fruit in us, enabling us to be joyful in the midst of trials.
Finally, Jesus is our model for godly joy. In His earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated being filled with joy through the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.). Not only was He joyful while serving God the Father, but He also found joy in serving mankind by enduring the cross for our salvation (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). In the end, responding with joy in all situations and recognizing God as the true and everlasting source of joy is left to the person’s decision to follow God and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their life.
(Romans 15:13 KJV)
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”