Question Tuesday: What Is Joy?

What is joy?

We were discussing this Sunday morning, and I wasn’t quite satisfied with the answers, so I’m coming to you. What is a proper definition or description of joy?

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6 Responses to Question Tuesday: What Is Joy?

  1. Val says:

    Good to be participating again on your blog! I’ve been away from computers for a while now.

    I think “joy” has something to do with remembering our inheritance in Christ in every circumstance, and trusting that God is and will “put everything to rights” as NT Wright says in Simply Christian. I think it must be related to celebration and gratitude. At the same time, though, I don’t think joy ignores injustice or skips mourning when it’s time to mourn. There’s a balance there between mourning and hope for the future, and maybe that’s what joy is, that balance.

    -V

    • reneamac says:

      Yes, welcome back! I like the idea of joy being a balance between here and there, now and yet to come. It’s a string that holds our now-but-not-yet position in the Kingdom together. As a part of the fruit of the Spirit, that “job description” makes perfect sense. For the Spirit’s indwelling also brings the not yet to the now of our lives.

      I also like how you have placed joy within a framework of hope, that our hope for that Day when all is made right tempers and brings perspective to our present sufferings — not that there is no pain, nor that joy is a practice which is not in process: no; it’s okay to be messy in one’s getting from here to there if the messiness is not a crutch (and it’s okay to not be messy if it’s real).

      Thanks for sharing your insights.

  2. Christine says:

    Good question. I’ve often been dissatisfied with this discussion as well, because growing up in church, I always heard joy defined in comparison with happiness. I was told that happiness was based on temporary pleasures; whereas joy was something eternal. But I could never see where this distinction came from. In the sermon on the mount, the word for “blessed” (As in, “blessed are the poor in spirit…”) is sometimes translated “happy,” and when I look up Greek words translated as “joy” in the concordance, I don’t see anything that points to something more eternal or truly distinct from happiness. (I find definitions like “cheerfulness,” “gladness,” “calm delight,” and “pleasure”).

    Nevertheless, we tend to use the words differently in English; joy seems to take on a purer connotation than happiness. But I don’t know if that’s a real distinction or just something that I read into it because of what I’ve been taught in church. When I look them up on Google, the two words are defined by each other — not helpful at all.

    But I can say this: joy is fruit of the Spirit, so there is something supernatural about it for a Christian, who can feel joy in the midst of difficulty and pain. Not that such a definition makes it different from “happiness” — that may be a false distinction — but true joy or happiness that perseveres in the face of trial is a gift of God’s grace.

    • reneamac says:

      Wow, it’s like you were in the very room. That very idea of joy being “eternal-minded happiness” in contrast to “temporary pleasure” was more or less where that discussion landed. And while I think a Kingdom-minded, or Kingdom-oriented-ness is certainly appropriate, it was the stark contrast to “temporary pleasures” which bugged me. Because God designs us quite singularly with particular interests and so forth so that when we experience pleasure in say, a temporary/momentary sunset or game of chess or no-hitter, why should those temporary things necessarily be unworthy of joy? And that’s where we end up: enjoying video games is unequivocally less spiritual than enjoying worship songs.

      I’m glad you placed joy in its context as a part of the fruit of the Spirit: “but true joy or happiness that perseveres in the face of trial is a gift of God’s grace.” Couldn’t be better said, my friend. Thanks for your thoughts.

      • Christine says:

        Side note: notice how you had to use the word “joy” to say “enjoying video games?” Kind of shows how the word lends itself to temporal pleasures as well as eternal ones.

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