Joy is one of my favorite fruits of the spirit! Just the word alone resembles a spirit of happiness, and can bring light to a dreary day. Joy is also one of the most intriguing to me too, because I think one of the greatest treasures we can find being a Christan is joy!
Now, joy and happiness are actually not the same thing. Almost, but not quite. Happiness, is more of an excitement, energy, or in the moment feeling of joy! It doesn't last, it doesn't make us feel better after it's all said and done. Joy is true contentment in life, no matter the mountains and valleys God brings us in our life, and is truly an admirable fruit of the spirit to have.
Out of joy, we can have happiness throughout our life in the ups and downs, but having just happiness alone isn't enough for us as Christians. Even atheists can be happy when life is going good, there's no problems or complications, you have good people in your life who aren't causing any problems, poverty isn't an issue. But, when poverty does strike and people come in your life who hurt you, and cause strife and confusion in your life, we need to have constant joy!!
I'm definitely not saying do not EVER be sad! God gave us that emotion for a reason, just the same way he gave us anger. We need to embrace that that's who we are as humans, but don't need to drag it out and feel bad for ourselves, because then it becomes bitterness, discontentment and self-pity, and at that point, it IS a sin. People grieve and mourn, when life gets difficult and that's okay. Even David, a man after God's own heart, as God Himself declared, mourned in Psalms 69:1-3: "Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God."
He goes on like this for the whole chapter, until the last few verses: "I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners. Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein."
In this section, he's proclaiming the goodness of the Lord God, and giving him the glory and credit, rather than wallowing in self-pity forever, and ever. In other Psalms, when things are going great for David, and life is pretty good, he still gives praise to God continually, and doesn't just forget Him in moments of happiness and prosperity!
James 1:2-3 states: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
I actually have a story about the apostles of Jesus when they showed this verse through their actions, and this story has really amazed me!!
Acts 5:40-42 tells us:
and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
Okay... wow.. have you ever gotten in trouble before? Most of us have, haha!! How many times have you left after being lectured full of joy and cheerful?? Ummmm.. NEVER!!! I know I haven't! Especially being proud of being worthy to be persecuted and looked down upon the Pharisees for Jesus Christ. This is true joy in the apostles when they were preaching the good news to everyone! The joy in their hearts from serving the Lord Jesus shines still today as we read passages such as these, and can be encouraged in our life to be joyful!!
To be honest with you, being joyful is one of my greatest struggles in life. Being happy? Pshh.. that's easy... but when things aren't necessary going my way, or the easiest in life, I don't always have that constant joy to lift me up... and do you know why? Because it is literally impossible for us humans to obtain joy by ourselves. It doesn't matter how hard we try, it's not something our sinful natures can do. That's really discouraging, isn't it?
Now, here's the good news, by God, we can have joy in life. God is such an amazing, merciful, spectacular God, and the only way we can really have true joy, is through our Savior, who shone a light to the world through the joy he brought others, and displayed Himself. If we truly love the Lord God, our Creator, then He will give us joy in our times of need. Through seeking and thoroughly knowing His Word, prayer, loving Him and loving others, and obeying the commandments that He has given us, we WILL find true joy!!!
I really hope this post has uplifted and encouraged you through your walk with God! Continue to seek God and learn more about Him!!
Here are a few good links to songs/articles about joy that I like!
http://www.faithgateway.com/25-bible-verses-about-joy/#.VCBFgRawW0o (( I haven't read this one completely yet, but it looks really REALLY good!!))