Joy, as promised and commanded by Scripture, constitutes an amazing blessing and a monumental challenge. Let us first consider the blessing.
"Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy" (Psalm 43:4).
In the Lord Jesus Christ, God gives to us not a thing, or a concept, or an emotion called joy. He rather gives Himself to us as our joy, as our "exceeding joy." The Ancient of Days, the eternally Ancient of Days, bestows upon and within His redeemed children the glad glories of His triune heart. We presently know them in limited fashion, likely because too much of the Divine assurance and gladness would burst our finite hearts. Indeed, it is vitally important that we learn and assimilate the Biblical portrayal of our Lord as the most joyous Person(s) imaginable. God is joy, according to the Psalmist. In an infinite measure of pleasure, the Father rejoices in the Son and Holy Spirit. The Son similarly rejoices in the Father and the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit rejoices in the Father and the Son to a degree beyond degree. Such glory forms both the essence of joyfulness, as well as providing its gift and expression in the hearts of those who believe. "The fruit of the Spirit is… joy", and thus in this moment and forevermore, the glad heart of God dwells within the spirits of every trusting son and daughter of God in Christ. We may not feel it because joy constitutes far more than mere emotion (Galatians 5:22). We may, in fact, feel just the opposite. Nevertheless, our Lord gave to us the joy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when we believed, and He presently and forevermore dwells within every son and daughter as "God, my exceeding joy."
Such wondrous truth provides the reason that prayers and songs of rejoicing have ascended Heavenward throughout history not only from summits of light, but also from dark venues where rejoicing would seem impossible. If we could spiritually hear the echoes, we would discover that prisons, dungeons, sickbeds, martyr's pyres, crosses, gravesides, and every form of sad place have served as the canyons of grace from which anthems have sounded and resounded. The Spirit of the Lord Jesus composes such unlikely music within us as we trust and submit ourselves to God. He sang with His disciples even as the cross of Calvary loomed immediately before Him, and in our troubles, He sings within our hearts "my song in the night" that must sound sublimely beautiful to the heart of the Father in whom we trust (Matthew 26:30; Psalm 77:6).
True joy in the human heart consists of Divine and human gladness mingled in the glory of God's love bestowed, received, and returned as graced by the particular characteristics of our Christ-redeemed and inhabited humanity. He rejoices in us - "the Lord taketh pleasure in His people" - and we rejoice in Him - "the righteous shall be glad in the Lord" (Psalm 149:4; 64:10). Unto those once unbelieving and rebellious, the Father of Heaven freely bestows through His Son and His Spirit the joyous atmosphere and sensibilities of His heart. We "joy in the God of my salvation" because the joy of the God of our salvation inhabits our spirits (Habbakuk 3:18). Known both in times both pleasant and unpleasant by those who believe, such a gift reveals the surpassing glory of so great and so glad a Lord.
"He will joy over thee with singing."
"I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
Part 2, Monday - The challenge of joy and the choice to rejoice.
Weekly Memory Verse
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy."