The Joy of the Lord (5)
And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the LORD;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25.9
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy, all you upright in heart! Psalm 32.11
As we enter the joy of the Lord, it’s natural for that joy to come to expression in various ways.
Who can sit placidly by when his favorite team has just won the championship on a buzzer-beater? Who doesn’t express delight at the return of a dear one? Of course, our delight is overwhelming at such times, and we cannot help but let it show.
But these are merely expressions of happiness, not joy. If we have ways of expressing such forms of happiness – shouting, clapping, weeping, laughing – should we not expect the joy we have in Jesus to find expression?
Joy is experienced inwardly first, as a form of gladness which, because of Jesus and what He has accomplished, and what in Him awaits us, settles the mind, delights the heart, and comforts the conscience. When we find ourselves engaged with the joy of the Lord, we experience peace, unshakeable wellbeing and security, and gratitude of a rich, general nature. We’re simply grateful to God for everything, and we delight in every aspect and detail of our lives.
This is the experience of joy which C. S. Lewis described in Surprised by Joy. There’s no explaining it because it doesn’t depend on circumstances or things. Suddenly, you’re just there, brimming with joy. The whole world looks beautiful, and you can say, “It is well with my soul.” Such profound, inward gladness may lead you to a season of quiet reflection, weeping tears of joy, and simply uttering, over and over, “Thank You, Lord, thank You.”
But expressing your joy might not end there. Joy is not for the Christian life an event; God intends His joy to be our constant companion, breathed in and expiring from us with the richness and beauty of the living Christ.
Outward expressions of joy
The gladness of soul you experience in the joy of the Lord may break forth in some outward form. That is to be expected. The outward expression of joy is what we call rejoicing, and rejoicing in the joy of the Lord can take various forms.
In the first place, rejoicing can be expressed as singing. Singing is an important outlet for joy, and a most basic means of rejoicing, as David understood: “I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Ps. 9.2). When we express our joy in singing, we enhance the experience of joy, and thus impress the joy of the Lord more firmly on our souls. Since singing engages our thoughts, affections, and values, the entire soul – mind, heart, and conscience – can be fortified as we sing with joy to the Lord.
Much increase of joy and strengthening of our souls can be gained through singing. It’s important, therefore, that believers have a repertoire of songs available to them so that, when their gladness begins to seek some outward manifestation, they won’t want for songs of joy to express what they are feeling.
Joy can also be expressed in various forms of prayer. Obviously, thanksgiving should be a primary means of expressing the joy we feel, as the psalmist teaches: “Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name” (Ps. 97.12). Giving thanks acknowledges that, whatever may have prompted our joy, it is always and only from the Lord, Who is our joy. The more specific we can be in our thanksgiving, the more we will be aware, day by day, of the many blessings of God with which He surrounds us, and the more we will know the joy of His Presence.
Praising the Lord is another important outlet for joy: “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises” (Ps. 98.4). In praise, we focus on the Lord, and His many excellencies and virtues.
Shouting can also be a wonderful way of expressing joy (cf. Pss. 32.11; 98.4). I recall one morning early, I was driving from our home to a meeting several hours away. I’d had a particularly rich time with the Lord before leaving, and I was praying for Susie and her day, filling up with joy in the Lord for her, our home, my work, the beauty of the creation around me, and the morning sunlight. Suddenly, from a hill on the right, a wild turkey took flight, gliding right in front of me across the highway, and landing on the other side of the road. I couldn’t help myself, I just shouted out, “Lord, You are so incredibly amazing and good!”
We can also express our joy by bearing witness to others of the goodness of the Lord (Ps. 9.14). As we talk about the Lord, and the joy we know in Him, our joy increases, and we are equipped in joy for our calling to live as witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Made for joy
We are made for joy, and as we rejoice, by all these means, God enhances our joy and grows us in Christ-likeness, for He is our reward and our joy.
Too often we give the impression that being a Christian means being dour or angry or sober and joyless. But God intends for His people to be the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48.2), that we might be joy-bringers to our weary world by living in the joy of our salvation and sharing it with the world.
A well-kept heart, grounded in fear and love for God, will abound with joy, a joy that we cannot contain but must express.
1. How do you typically express the joy of the Lord when you find yourself in it?
2. Can you recommend a song that you have found helpful in expressing your joy? Why does this song help you enter the joy of the Lord?
3. Why is it important that we bear witness to our joy as often as we can?
Next steps – Conversation: Talk with another Christian about expressing joy. What can you learn from one another? Why is it important that we express the joy of the Lord?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.