Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)
Click over to see a couple translations of Isaiah 51:3. What will be found in the place God comforts?
When I do Bible studies with my Proverbs 32 sisters, we joke that if we don't know the answer to a question in our workbooks, we just have to look at the text right after the question, and the answer is usually there. I'm following that lead here: happiness or gladness and joy are what will be found.
Happiness and joy. Gladness and joy. In the original Hebrew language the Old Testament was mostly written in, those words are two different words. It's not just that Bible translators gave two different "definitions" to the same Hebrew word. Happiness (or gladness...same thing for our purposes) and joy are two distinct words and two different concepts. God doesn't throw words into His Word just to take up space, so there must be a reason for both.
What do you think the difference is between happiness and joy?
Got it? Great! Here's what I think. (Obviously it's what I think, since I'm the one writing this, but my point is that this really isn't one of those right/wrong answer deals.)
Happiness is usually based on eternal circumstances. We get that grade we want or that job we want or that dress we want, and we feel happy. We're glad for the grade, the job, the dress.
On the other hand, joy is the result of an internal reality, and it's usually tied to relationship. Our joy in God is based on our child-Abba relationship with Him. When I give my daughter a gift I know she really wants, I feel joy because I love her and because of our connection.
Unlike happiness, joy does not depend on circumstance. In fact, we can feel joy right in the middle of very unhappy circumstances.
When my daughter, Anna, was just 6 years old, her grandfather died very suddenly. That same day, when Anna talked on the phone with her very newly widowed grandmother, almost the first thing Anna said to her was, "Well, at least he didn't die and go to hell!" The circumstances that day were as unhappy as any we'd ever known, but at that moment, we felt joy. Because what Anna said was true. Because of our relationship with her grandfather, who was at that moment in the presence of The Great I AM. Because of the relationship he'd had with Jesus, His Savior. We did not feel happy. But we did feel joyful.
What makes you happy? What brings you joy? As you think about your answers, consider how circumstances play into your happiness and how relationships feed your joy.
The Main Event:
So where do we get this joy-that's-more-than-just-happiness? When do we get it? And what do we do once we've got it? God talks about joy a lot in the Bible. Just in the incomplete concordance in the back of my Bible, the listing for "joy" is three columns long.
In verse after verse, the Joy-Giver tells us that
- sometimes we receive joy
- sometimes we wait for joy
- sometimes we choose joy
- sometimes we show joy
Take in these Scriptures, and after you read each one, decide if it shines light on receiving joy, waiting for joy, choosing joy, or showing joy. (If you're just dying to know the "right" answers on this, you'll have to jump over to the Answer Key!)
"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement." (Philemon 7)
"You welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 1:6b)
"Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning." (Psalm 30:5b CSB)
"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven." (Luke 6:23)
"Consider it pure joy...whenever you face trials of many kinds." (James 1:2)
"I sing for joy at the work of your hands." (Psalm 92:4b)
"Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51:12)
The Truth in Action:
The most important part of The Truth in Action for every part of this Fruit of the Spirit (FOTS) series is going to be the same: ask the Holy Spirit (H.S.) to give you His fruit! Listen up, precious girl, you cannot come up with the FOTS on your own. You can't will yourself to be joyful, especially on days when you hate your outfit and your hair and you're not all that crazy about the people in your life. You can't just grit your teeth and make this FOTS thing happen. You have to ask the H.S. to fill you up with His power every day.
The great news here is that God will always say "yes" when we ask for something He wants to give (on His own perfect schedule, of course). And we KNOW He wants to give us joy and all the rest of the parts of the FOTS. You can ask for a fresh fill-up of joy to get you through your day and feel confident God is going to be all over that request. So ask!
Ask the H.S. to give you His supernatural power, because people can't literally see God's Spirit in you, but they can see joy. And remember, you're not doing this hard thing on your own. I'm not doing it on my own. That's why it's not called the Fruit of Elizabeth or the Fruit of (your name goes here). It's the Fruit of the Spirit.
"When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)