The Search for Joy

Different foci on living have attracted mankind’s (man’s) attention over the years. Political, religious, and economical perspectives have all taken a turn in being primary for man. The political man emphasized ruling, the religious man emphasized religion, and the economic man emphasized status, wealth, and success. However, in recent decades, the psychological man seems to dominate the perspective of the Western society.

Part of the psychological perspective includes self-interest and pursuit of happiness. Man chases after what will make him happy. The world’s search for happiness includes possessions, honor, and wealth which according to Ecclesiastes 6:2 is a gift from God. Man can easily exceed the just, usual, and fond pursuits in these areas. Furthermore, partying, alcohol, drugs, adventure, fitness, and laughter can be sought out for fulfilment of happiness. But it is God who gives the power to enjoy them (Eccl 5:19).

The world seems to erroneously define happiness and joy. The world views happiness as a state of well-being and contentment or a pleasurable experience. Similarly, the world’s definition of joy points to an emotion brought on by good fortune, well-being, success, or the anticipation of receiving one’s desires. In general, the world’s view of happiness and joy is frequently determined by circumstances.    

However, God defines joy differently because it is determined by a relationship with Him. A biblical definition of joy is a “state of delight and well-being that results from knowing and serving God.”[1] Joy is mentioned over 150 times in the Bible and comes from a right relationship with God, Jesus, salvation, and walking with the Lord.[2] Furthermore, joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). Thus, man cannot have real joy without God. All the pleasures of the world result in temporary satisfaction. The pleasures of man lead to no benefit (Eccl 2:1-11) and enslave man (Titus 3:3). The pleasures the world seeks, as described in 2 Timothy 3:4, is self-centered. Interestingly, the Greek word for pleasure in 2 Timothy 3:4 is where we get our English word hedonism from.[3]

Contrarily, it is God alone who gives enjoyment in life (Eccl 2:25). It is the man who pleases God who receives wisdom, knowledge, and joy (Eccl 2:26). The Hebrew word for pleases in Ecclesiastes 2:26 has the sense of the word face as being before or in front of God. Also, in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore,” the word presence has the same meaning as pleases in Ecclesiastes 2:26. Thus, the one who keeps God in front of himself (remembering, seeking, depending) will find fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore as provided for through the salvific work of Christ. Depending on the world’s methods of seeking joy through what is on earth, including human relationships, will not result in fullness of joy. John 15:11 aptly states, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

In what ways have you and I bought into the lie that we can find joy outside of God through possessions, pleasures, prestige, power, or people? In what ways would God have you and I look to Him for our source of joy? A good place to start could be remembering, seeking, and depending on Him in a deeper way!  

Image from https://www.okccommunitychurch.com/messagearchive/2020/3/1/joy-part-4-tim-mannin, accessed May 31, 2021.

[1] Robert J. Dean, “Joy,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 956.

[2] Ibid., 956-57.

[3] Ibid., 957.

PJ Beets is passionate about encouraging women and children through the Scriptures and life to see the compassionate God who redeems the rejected by acceptance, the silenced by expression, the labored by grace, and the lonely by love in order to set them free to serve in His ordained place and way for them individually and corporately. She has served the Lord through Bible Study Fellowship and her home church in various capacities with women and children. Upon turning fifty, she sought the Lord on how He would have her finish well which began her journey at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies as well as a Doctor of Educational Ministry in Spiritual Formation, both from from DTS. PJ is married to Tom, has three children, and six grandchildren.

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