What Is The Biblical Definition Of Joy? Examples & Importance
Joy is a beautiful emotion to experience. It’s the feeling you get when you’re ecstatic about going on vacation, when you’re laughing with friends, or when you’re simply with a loved one. Joy is just a feeling, however, and it can leave us in an instant depending on our circumstances in life. But, biblical joy is a different kind of joy.
What is the biblical definition of joy? The biblical definition of joy says that joy is a feeling of good pleasure and happiness that is dependent on who Jesus is rather than on who we are or what is happening around us. Joy comes from the Holy Spirit, abiding in God’s presence and from hope in His word.
Biblical joy can be a confusing thing, especially since it’s something that doesn’t come just in the best of times. Because it is dependent on who Jesus is and God’s presence in us as the Holy Spirit, biblical joy is accessible to us even in the worst of times, and it can never be taken away from us.
“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” —John 16:22 ESV
Biblical Joy Is Knowing Jesus
Renowned author John Piper defines Christian joy as being that “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.” Implied in this statement is the idea that true joy, the joy that comes from God, comes from seeing Jesus.
Biblical joy is knowing Jesus and rejoicing in him. But how can we rejoice in the Lord, if we do not know who he is? Jesus is the Son of God, who has saved us from our sins for a life of freedom with him.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” —Philippians 4:4 ESV
Jesus wants a relationship with us and has given us his Holy Spirit so that we can hear his voice and get to know him better through God’s word. When we draw close to him, we can feel his peace beyond understanding, contentment in any situation, and even experience healing in his presence.
That is why we can find joy in knowing Jesus, who has saved us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of light.
And the best part is we don’t have to wait until heaven to know how good Jesus is. We get to have a relationship with Jesus, where we get to worship him, talk to him, listen to him, and love him.
Knowing Jesus requires time with him in the word of God, and that time produces a relationship full of abundant peace and joy.
Even in the hardest times of my life, I remember experiencing joy because I knew Jesus was with me and I knew who He was. Jesus is faithful. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
But, there’s no way of truly knowing who Jesus is without reading the Bible. That’s why biblical joy is also found when we put our faith in God’s word.
Biblical Joy Is Faith In God’s Word
God’s word is His revelation to us, it’s where we can get to know him and soak in his presence no matter what is going on in our life.
When we know the blessings that are in God’s word and come from remaining it in, we will experience abundant joy.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. —Psalm 16:11 ESV
God’s word makes the path of life visible to us and it is alive and active, bubbling over with truth, hope, and joy. Of course, there’s no way of having joy in God’s word and his promises if we don’t know them.
God says in his word that he will never leave us or forsake us, he will strengthen us, he will comfort us, and bring us peace. He is near to the brokenhearted and wants to bless us and keep us close to him.
From cover to cover the Bible is full of God’s promises, and it only takes a small amount of time to be completely overwhelmed by God’s love for us and transformed by the words he speaks over us.
That’s why knowing God’s promises is so important, and believing in them is essential for planting joy deep in our souls.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. —Romans 15:13 ESV
The good news is that you don’t have to do this on your own. The Holy Spirit is your Helper and wants to guide you into all grace, truth, and joy as you read through scripture.
Biblical Joy Is Abiding In Jesus And In His Holy Spirit
As Christians, once we have accepted Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit. God has given us his Holy Spirit as a down payment for our life with him to come, and the Holy Spirit is here to guide us into all grace and truth.
Since the Holy Spirit is God’s presence that has come to dwell in us, we are able to remain in him and abide in Jesus forever.
I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. —John 15:5 CSB
Remaining in the Holy Spirit also means that we produce the fruit of the Spirit, and Galatians 5:22 tells us that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy.
Biblical joy does not come from only a vacation, or a fun time in life, it comes whenever we are abiding in Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
Biblical Joy Endures All Things
Biblical joy endures all things because that’s what Jesus did. He knew that there was a greater joy coming that he had yet to experience.
For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. —Hebrews 12:2
Even though we can’t feel joy, and even though we may be feeling the exact opposite of joy at times, it is the one thing as Christians that inspires us to endure all things.
Think of the early church and even believers today who are being persecuted. Why did they not give in under the pressure of mockery and torture?
Why did Jesus not give in and call his angels down to save him from the cross? Because He was looking forward to the joy of one day being in the Father’s presence with all of us.
We are saved from sin and death, for a life with Jesus on this earth, to one day enter into the kingdom of Heaven in order to worship God and be loved by him for eternity. This joy has got to outweigh whatever we are enduring in this life now.
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. —1 Peter 1:5-6 CSB
This hope in a joy to come isn’t minimizing our pain and suffering that we’re feeling right now. Jesus didn’t endure the cross because it wasn’t excruciating or bearable, but because the thought of not enjoying an eternity with us was out of the question.
This isn’t because we’re all that, it’s because God loves us so much that He was willing to send Jesus to die for us. Now, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God with all authority and all power in His hands.
What an amazing and gracious God we have. The salvation he has granted us gives us enough joy to last a lifetime and forevermore, despite the fact that we will still face hardship in this life.
Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.
Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. —John 16:20-22 ESV
This is the hallmark of biblical joy. It is what separates Christianity from other religions. Even when it doesn’t make any sense in this world, even when we are suffering, joy is possible through the Holy Spirit because Jesus has saved us for an eternity with him.
Jesus came for the people who thought it’d be impossible to experience joy and freedom. His upside-down kingdom has brought joy to the blind, the sick, the naked, the broken-hearted, the outcasts, the sinners, and you and me.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. —1 John 3:1 NIV
The world may not understand, but the biggest characteristic of biblical joy by far is the fact that it endures all things because it knows that the Father has lavished his love on us and made a way for us to dwell with him forever.
Examples Of Biblical Joy
There are plenty of places in the Bible where we can find people full of joy. When we look closely, we can see that that joy is only made possible by the grace of God and is often intertwined with stories of deep hurt and humanness.
One example of biblical joy is David’s joy in the Lord. Even though he experienced betrayal, loss, and shame, David always went back to praising God and rejoicing in him.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. —Psalm 30:11 ESV
David didn’t just rejoice in God during the best of times, but he also praised him during the times when he felt the most depressed.
When Saul was trying to kill him, when people were making fun of him, and even when God forgave him for murder and adultery, David found himself at the feet of the Lord, glorifying and praising him.
He recognized that his feelings didn’t determine his joy, but his hope in God did. From this, David reaped the joy of the Lord because he went to God with a broken and humbled heart over and over again.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. —Psalm 126:5 ESV
The Disciples’ Joy
In Acts, the disciples were rejoicing over people accepting the gospel and being saved. What better thing to rejoice in than people hearing the good news, repenting, and knowing Jesus?
Jesus wants everyone to be saved, and he gave the disciples and us the command to proclaim the gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation. So, when this started happening, of course the disciples were filled with joy.
And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. —Acts 13:39, 52 ESV
Joy For The Lost Being Found
In Luke 15, Jesus talks about how there is joy and celebrating in heaven for the lost being found. To illustrate his point, Jesus tells us three parables, one of those being the parable of the prodigal son.
In this parable, a son asked his father for his share of the inheritance. Once he had it, he ran away and spent it all on foolish things. When the money had run out, the son ended up sleeping with the pigs and decided to go back home to become a servant for his father.
Instead of rejecting his son or being angry with him, the father ran out to greet his long lost son and threw a joyful celebration for him. But, his older brother who had stayed home all along became jealous and asked his father why he was so joyful about his brother’s return.
But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. —Luke 15:32 CSB
The father was filled with joy since his son had returned, and he knew that he was alive again.
In the same way, our Father in heaven and Jesus rejoiced over us when we were found, and they still rejoice over their children coming to know them.
This is one of the greatest joys found in scripture, and should motivate us as Christians to love people like the prodigal son’s father so that they too may know the joy of being accepted into God’s family.
The Importance Of Biblical Joy
Without biblical joy, we’d be left to rely on circumstances in life to make us happy and bring us joy. That would work out great during family vacations and when things are going our way, but what happens when life gets hard?
We need a joy that we can hold onto no matter what is going on in our lives, a joy that is always accessible to us. That joy is not found anywhere else other than in a relationship with Jesus.
With Jesus, we know that we will be in heaven with Him for eternity, and even while we’re still here on earth, we have the Holy Spirit to help us and bring us joy when we need it.
Even in the hardest, darkest, and most chaotic times of our lives, Jesus is there, and he is offering us true joy because as Christians, we know this world is not our home. We belong with God, and every trial we are facing is nothing compared to the glory that is coming.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. —Romans 8:18 CSB
The Bible is full of stories of real people’s brokenness and hardships, yet somehow it is also filled with songs of praise to God and stories of incredible hope and joy.
Today, we can find true, lasting joy in God’s word and by asking the Holy Spirit for help. Because of this, biblical joy is accessible to us even in the worst of times and is found in having a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.