the

Joy

Being in a good mood is really great.

And most languages have lots of words to describe the experience, like happy, cheerful, joyful, and so on.

The same goes for the languages of the Bible.

In ancient biblical Hebrew, there are a variety of words like simcha, sason or geel.

In the Greek New Testament, there is chara, euphrosune or agalliasis.

Each word has its own unique nuance but they all basically refer to the feeling of joy and happiness.

What makes these biblical joy words interesting is noticing the kinds of things that bring happiness

and also seeing how joy is a key theme that runs through the whole story of the Bible.

Let's start with sources of joy.

On page 1 of the Bible, God says that this world is very good.

So, naturally, people find joy in beautiful and good things of life,

like growing flocks or in abundant harvest on the hills.

The poet of Psalm 104 says a good bottle of wine is God's gift to bring joy to people's hearts.

People find joy at a wedding or in their children.

There is even a Hebrew proverb that compares the joy that perfume brings to your nose

with the joy a good friend brings to your heart.

However, human history isn't just a joy fest.

The biblical story shows how we live in a world that has been corrupted by our own selfishness.

It is marked by death and loss.

This is where biblical faith offers a unique perspective on joy

It is an attitude God's people adopt, not because of happy circumstances,

but because of their hope in God's love and promise.

So when the Israelites were suffering from slavery in Egypt,

God raised up Moses to lead them into freedom.

And the first thing that Israelites did was sing for joy, even though they were in the middle of a desert.

They were vulnerable.

The promised land was still far away.

They rejoiced anyway.

Later biblical poets looked back on this story and they remembered how

"The Lord caused his people to leave with joy, his chosen ones with shouts of joy."

This joy in the wilderness was a defining moment,

a way of saying that the joy of God's people is not determined by their struggles, by their future destiny.

This theme appears later in Israel's story when Israel suffered under the oppression of foreign empires.

The prophet Isaiah looked for a day when God would raise up a new deliverer like Moses.

That is when those redeemed by the Lord will return to Zion with glad shouts, with eternal joy crowning their heads.

Happiness and joy will overtake them.

While the Israelites waited, they chose joy to anticipate their future redemption.

This is why it is significant that when Jesus of Nazareth was born,

it was announced as good news that brings great joy.

We are told that Jesus himself rejoiced and gave thanks to God, his father,

when he began to announce the kingdom of God.

He even taught his followers the same joy in the wilderness saying,

"When people reject you or persecute you for following me, rejoice, be very glad,

because your reward is great in heaven."

After his death and resurrection, Jesus commissioned his followers to go out and announce the good news

that he was the risen king of the world.

As they did so, the early Christian communities were known for being full of joy even when they were persecuted.

Like when the Apostle Paul was sitting in a dirty Roman prison.

He could say that he has chosen joy, even if he gets executed.

He called this the joy of faith, or joy in the Lord.

He believed it was the gift of God's Spirit, a sign that Jesus' presence is with you,

inspiring hope in the midst of hardship.

When you believe that Jesus' love has overcome death itself, joy becomes reasonable in the darkness of circumstances.

Now, this doesn't mean that you ignore or suppress your sorrow.

That is not healthy or necessary.

Paul often expressed his grief about missing loved ones, or losing friends, or his own freedom.

He called it "Being full of sorrow and yet rejoicing."

As he acknowledged his pain, he also made a choice to trust Jesus that his loss wouldn't be the final word.

This is very different from the trite advice to turn that frown upside down.

Christian joy is a profound decision of faith and hope in the power of Jesus' own life and love.

And that is what biblical joy is all about.