The darkness of the fallen world causes many seasons of suffering and pain to believers and Jesus said it would be so. (John 16:33) The enemy would like nothing more than to keep you trapped in misery, bitterness, anxiety, grief, and fear, but when the joy of the Lord is your strength, those trials turn into testimonies!
Joy in the Bible contradicts the world’s idea of happiness because the world needs to find their emotional balance from fleeting, temporal sources, but when the joy of the Lord is your strength, that joy exist apart from the world, outside of your situation, and can’t be taken because nothing in the world gave it to you.
The Benefits of Joy Give You Victory from God
All believers are given access to spiritual weapons such as the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith, and are given possession of supernatural abilities like the power to have peace that passes understanding and a joy unspeakable and full of glory even in the hardest times of life.
Those are victories from the Lord that you can walk in before any other movement happens in your situation. That is because many of the victories you’ll experience as a Christian will be seen inside of you before they’re seen outside of you. Walking in the joy of the Lord is a position of victory because it infuses your spirit with a supernatural strength that the enemy can’t touch.
Even the world knows that “happiness” has benefits like:
- Lower blood pressure
- A stronger immune system
- Reduced stress
- Less physical ailments and pain
- A lower rate of disease
But when you are walking in the fullness of joy you’ll find that you have spiritual benefits as well:
- Abounding in hope (Romans 15:13)
- Endurance (Psalm 16:8-9)
- Strength (Nehemiah 8:10)
- Abiding Assurance (John 15:11)
- Perspective (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5)
- Restoration (Isaiah 35:10)
There are many promises about joy in the Bible and each holds true spiritual power as you stand in faith on them because when the Lord quickens His Word to your spirit, the Lord watches over His Word to see that it is accomplished. (Joshua 1:12)
As bad as things may be, they’ll just get a lot worse if your feelings are allowed to override your faith. Feelings are fleeting and will prevent you from seeing your experiences through the lens of faith, but how can the joy of the Lord be your strength if you have no joy? How can you experience joy if you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death or steeped in a season of sadness or depression of pain?
The Difference Between Happiness and Joy
The feelings and emotions that come in hard times are very real, raw, human responses to very real situations in life and plenty of heroes in the Bible experienced them.
God, too, has a wide range of emotions as see throughout the Bible and you’re made in His image, so you can expect that emotions will be part of your experience and response to life’s issues. So, what now?
There’s nothing wrong with feeling depressed, anxious, doubtful, angry, or with struggling with vain imaginations and evil forebodings – you just can’t stay stuck there. (see 2 Corinthians 5:7)
Happiness is what you experience in reaction to your situation whereas joy is what you experience in reaction to the time you spend in the presence of God.
Happiness is what you experience in reaction to your situation whereas joy is what you experience in reaction to the time you spend in the presence of God.~Alicia Purdy
The difference between happiness and “joy unspeakable and full of glory” is the difference between faith and feelings.
The kind of joy that produces a supernatural strength within you has nothing to do with feeling happy. In fact, you can be in your darkest hour and still find joy, still walk in joy, still draw strength from joy. The actions of joy and the emotions of happiness do not have the same source and they do not produce the same results in your life.
What Does the Bible Say about the Joy of the Lord?
There are many Scriptures on joy being joyful, the benefits of joy, the fullness of joy and beyond, but when most people think about what the Bible says about the joy of the Lord, these are the primary verses that come up:
- Psalm 51:12, “…restore unto me the joy of my salvation…”
- Psalm 16:11, “…in His presence is fullness of joy…”
- Nehemiah 8:10, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength…”
When it comes to the complete work of joy in the Bible, there are three significant aspects that come together to transform how you interact with the world and still maintain the joy of the Lord, which is a distinctly spiritual work.
The Bible speaks of the joy of the Lord three ways and each one forms “a cord of three strands” that provides a complete “fullness” of strength that brings personal transformation within you. Remember that you’ll see change within you before you see it outside of you!
1. The Joy That Changes Your Outward Countenance
When David wrote, “…restore unto my the joy of my salvation…” in Psalm 51:12, he was specifically referring to the gladness, mirth, and rejoicing from inside his heart. At this point, David was existing in a worsening depressed and sorrowful condition following his sin with Bathsheba and he cried out to the Lord for help.
David asked the Lord to restore the joy that would transform him from the inside, the kind of joy that brings a gladness of heart and a refreshing, internal joy that others could see in his outward countenance, a supernatural fullness of joy that replaces mourning and grief.
This type of joy in the Bible is also found here:
- Isaiah 61:3 (MEV), “…to preserve those who mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”
- Jeremiah 15:16 (MEV), “Your words were found and I ate them. And Your word became to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of Hosts.”
- Jeremiah 31:13 (MEV), “…for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow…”
2. The Joy That Changes Your Source
Everyone faces the temptation to look at the natural things when they occur, but time spent in God’s presence will help you fix your eyes on Jesus. He will give you a supernatural perspective and become the source of your joy if you make the time to abide in His presence.
When Nehemiah said, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength” in Nehemiah 8:10, he was speaking to people who were wailing with remorse and repentance after realizing how far they had departed from the law of God. Up until this point, the source of their joy had been from doing the work of the Lord rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.
However, Nehemiah directed them to another source of joy that would strengthen them to continue forward – the Lord. It’s not enough to ‘experience’ contentment or happiness from any external source because true strength has a supernatural source, which only comes from time spent in God’s presence.
The joy of the Lord can only come from the Lord and that means it is directly tied to how much time you spend in His presence. The fruit of the Spirit called “joy” is grown when you intentionally depart from the feelings of the flesh and step into God’s presence.
The joy of the Lord can only come from the Lord and that means it is directly tied to how much time you spend in His presence.~Alicia Purdy
1 Chronicles 16:27 speaks of this same source of joy – the kind that only comes from God’s presence:
“Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His place.” (MEV)
Nehemiah told the people to stop crying, to turn around and celebrate, and to let the joy of the Lord be their strength. That is because “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 2:8) comes from your faith in the Lord, not a feeling!
3. The Joy That Changes Your Behavior
“You have placed gladness in my heart that is better than when their corn and their new wine abound,” David said. (Psalm 4:7, MEV) When all you see around you is hard times, you can have the benefits of joy and the strength will change your behavior toward the things in your life.
In God’s reality, joy is an act of faith and that is shown through praise, according to the Bible. Worship, as an act of faith, will lead to the strength that comes from the joy of the Lord that you’ll experience in His presence – no matter what else is going on.
Joy, in God’s reality, has nothing to do with what is going on around you and everything to do with what’s going on within you.
So, if you don’t see anything good around you, you can still have a fullness of joy. If you struggle with depression or grief or fear, the joy of the Lord will be your strength, but only if the source of your joy comes from the presence of God.
This type of the joy of the Lord, that changes your behavior, refers to the actions of joy in comparison to the situation around you: Gladness, celebration, dancing, music and singing, and laughing with exceeding mirth.
- Psalm 4:7 (MEV), “You have placed gladness in my heart that is better than when their corn and their new wine abound.”
- Psalm 30:11 (MEV), “For You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness…”
- Psalm 43:1, 4 (MEV), “Deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man… I will go to the altar of God, to the God of my joyful gladness; with the harp I will give thanks to You.”
- Isaiah 55:12, “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
Praise cannot be contained to your heart! Praise is a physical expression, according to the 7 Hebrew words for praise in the Bible. Your behavior in response to the situations of your life will change the more you spend time in God’s presence through praise.
This is exactly what David meant when he wrote about this type of joy:
You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11, MEV)
In 1 Chronicles 16 when David had brought back the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he wrote a song to the Lord in which he tells the people to “sing”, “declare”, “proclaim”, “give”, “bow down” and “tremble” before the Lord saying, “strength and joy are in His dwelling place.”
Those are the actions of joy – worship! And therein lies the source of strength: FAITH. Your praise and worship of God are the physical evidence of “the things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), evidence of your faith in the Lord over your feelings. That is path people of faith walk as the joy of the Lord becomes their strength!
Thought for today: The Joy of the Lord Means Faith Over Fear
When things get hard, the enemy will try to exhaust you. Like a deer panting for water, you’ll become an easy target without refreshment and rest for your soul. You won’t feel strong because you don’t feel God’s joy. That is why you must lean into the actions of joy regardless of how you feel and the Lord will meet your faith right there.
You will find the joy of the Lord that changes your countenance, your source, and your behavior within the presence of God and God’s presence dwells most strongly within the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).
Isaiah 61:3 says that through Christ you’ve been given “…the garment of praise of the spirit of heaviness.” But here’s the thing about the “garment of praise”, just like any other piece of clothing… you have to put it on yourself!
The joy of the Lord is your strength, if you choose to close in to God’s presence through praise and worship, and put on the “garment of praise” to fight off the “spirit of heaviness”!
Learn more about the 7 Hebrew Words for Praise and how each one helps create strength, intimacy, and fresh revelation as you understand more about God’s plan for praise in your life!
David performed the actions of joy in faith in his hardest times. He worshipped the Lord and lifted up his hands and firmly declared this while he was still in the wilderness: “…my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.” (Psalm 63:4-5) Faith over feelings is the first step to walking in the joy of the Lord.
Here’s the thing: There was a desert all around David sucking him dry, but there was no desert in his heart. That is how you live when the joy of the Lord is your strength!