Joy is not an emotion or a feeling. Joy is not the opposite of sad, and it is not the same as being happy. Happy—and sad—are emotions that are tied to our circumstances. These two are emotions resulting from what is happening in our lives. We feel happy because of great fortune and sad when our situation is not ideal. These emotions, like so many others, are fleeting and temporary. Here today, gone tomorrow. Joy is different.
In her book, Joykeeper: 6 Truths That Change Everything You Thought You knew about Joy, writer Suzanne Eller describes joy as “a knowing.” In other words, joy is not a response to situations outside of ourselves; it is a choice you and I make despite our circumstances.
Joy is possible when we trust who we belong to and understand what He has done. Joy is a choice you and I make over letting our circumstances dictate a response. You and I can “know” joy when our circumstances are less than ideal because we believe that God is present and in control.
God made us to feel happy and sad, and a host of other emotions, but not be ruled by them. As God’s children, we regret and mourn our sin against our Heavenly Father, but He does not desire for us to be ruled by tears and weeping. Instead, celebrate.
Joy Is Found in the Word of God
If joy arises from “knowing,” how do you and I know the truth that brings joy? The people of Israel became distraught, weeping and mourning because they learned the truth about their sin. “For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” They understood the truth of their sin through the Word of God, and their hearts were broken. We also learn the truth through the Word of God.
No one escapes sin. Romans 3:23 reminds us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God’s Word is designed to reveal our sin. “Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins” (Galatians 3:19a NLT). Once we are aware of our sin, we can only weep and mourn as the Israelites did. Galatians 3:19 also reminds us that along with receiving the Word of God, we received a promise, and that promise is Jesus Christ.
As Nehemiah reminds us, we don’t have to continue weeping and mourning because we know the truth that our sins are forgiven through Jesus. He is the reason for our joy. “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
You and I can know joy because we trust in the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. Well-known Bible commentator Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “The sinner has no need for rejoicing and the forgiven child of God has no reason for mourning.” Our joy comes from knowing we are forgiven.
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