Joy: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness
We hear the words happy, cheerful, and joyful tossed around a lot, but biblical joy is much more than the flippant definition we now associate it with. Biblical joy is more than a happy mood; it is a choice we make to put our faith and trust in God, believing He is good, He loves us, and He will always fulfill His promises.
In ancient, biblical Hebrew, there are a variety of words that mean joy including simcha, sason, and geel. The New Testament Greek is the same way, using words like chara, euphrosune, or agalliasis for what we now refer to as joy.
Joy is a foundational theme of the Bible. Sometimes we see these words when biblical authors talk about the creation of the world around them (Psalm 65:11–12), a wedding (Jeremiah 33:11), or the life of a child (Proverbs 23:24–25).
But biblical joy is much more than just your standard happy circumstances. Beginning in Genesis 3, we see a world that has been completely corrupted by sin, resulting in death, loss, tragedy—the list goes on and on. It is in those moments of brokenness we see the unique perspective the Bible offers us on joy. As followers of Christ, we can be joyful even in challenging or negative circumstances because of our relationship with God.
We see biblical joy put into action when the Israelites sing for joy in the middle of the wilderness (Psalm 105:43). God's chosen people are able to be joyful in the midst of struggle, revealing that God's people are not defined by their circumstances but by the God they cling to.
Ultimately it is the promise of the coming Messiah that biblical joy is founded upon and what brings us the utmost joy (Isaiah 51:11).
So, even while waiting hundreds of years, the Israelites chose joy as they anticipated their coming Redeemer, which is exactly why Jesus' birth was announced as "good news that brings great joy" (Luke 2:10).
Then, Jesus taught us even more how to be joyful in the midst of hard circumstances. Even if we are rejected, even if we are persecuted, we are to choose joy because that is what Jesus did when He took on the cross for our sins (Matthew 5:12).
And so, this 2020 Christmas season, no matter what we are facing—even if we are experiencing heartache or loss—joy can be our choice. Like Paul, we can "be full of sorrow and yet rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10). Because when we believe that Jesus has overcome the grave, we can find joy in Him even if we cannot find joy in much else. May we each trust Jesus, believing that our loss is not the final word but that He is coming again, so we may be filled with joy (Acts 13:52), have the joy of faith (Philippians 1:25), and find joy in the Lord (Philippians 3:1) this Christmas.
To learn more on biblical joy and to access kid-friendly resources to teach your children about joy this Christmas, visit bellevue.org/family and download the Advent Celebration booklet from Fight for Your Family.