The Theology of Joy

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-24

 

Of all of the fruits listed in these verses joy is consistently the most elusive. We often hear the correct and encouraging phrase, “Choose joy!” Although this idea of seeing joy as a choice and not a fleeting feeling is a true and wonderful first step in the right direction, it still begs the question of how? The mistake often made during this application of joy is that we choose the mindset for our own comfort. 

We are sad about a situation–choose joy to overcome it

We are depressed–choose joy to feel better

We worry–choose joy for peace

Yet, however beautiful it might seem to be able to choose joy in our most trying circumstances, it is extraordinarily important to understand the reason for joy and its theological application in our lives. Joy is listed as a fruit of the believer’s life as they walk with and are led by the Holy Spirit. As such, we must understand that joy does not mysteriously appear as we choose it but is brought forth from a deep understanding of God. It is about our relationship with God and our understanding of who He is. It is an act which flows from a heart close to God, not just something simply conjured up for ourselves when life is hard. 

Throughout Scripture we find that the idea of joy ties into two commands given to us in Scripture. We are to worship the Lord and we are to hope in the Lord. 

Worship

Nehemiah 8:10b says, “…and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This was said by Nehemiah after the reading of God’s Word to the newly returned Israelite exiles. They had just heard the history and laws of their nation and the unending faithfulness of their God despite the continual rebellion and disobedience of their people. They were completely overwhelmed by grief. Yet, they were told to rejoice. They were commanded to worship! Despite sadness at their disobedience, despite extreme regret, they were to fully enjoy this moment. Not because of themselves, but because of the Lord. Their joy was found in Him and Him alone because of His great faithfulness. Worship of the Lord, despite their sin, brought abounding joy. 

Does worshiping your Lord and recognizing His faithfulness birth joy in your life? 

Hope

John 15:10-11 says, “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 be in you, and that your joy may be full.” These verses contain invaluable truths for our pursuit of joy. John is urging his readers to a beautiful commandment. It is a command to simply abide in the love of God. A pure, true, and everlasting love. It is not an obedience to drudgery but an obedience of the very best kind–one that leads us ever closer to God and His love. And it is in this we find hope for joy. Deep, loving, abiding joy. The kind of joy that doesn’t falter with feelings because it is based on the everlasting and faithful character of our God. 

Do you find hope for joy as you willingly obey God’s Word and abide in the depths of God’s love?

Joy is more than just a choice. It is a choice founded on strong theology. For if we truly understand who God is we have the capability of experiencing unbounded joy as we worship Him in His faithfulness and hope in His abiding love. May you fully delight in the theology of joy. 

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Sarah Chadbourn

About Sarah Chadbourn

Sarah and her husband, Jonathan, are from third-generational ministry families. Their ministry experiences began in France as church planters. They then moved to a small Illinois town to help strengthen and experience the God-guided growth of a struggling church. Sarah’s husband is the Pastor of Education at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Groveland, Illinois, where she enjoys the busy life of a pastor’s wife. Sarah earned a degree in Nutritional Counseling from Calvary Bible College where she and Jonathan met. She enjoys writing, counseling, and speaking God’s truth to women of all ages. In her free time she enjoys playing piano, jogging, reading out-loud to her five children (ages 5-12), and decorating her house.