Galatians chapter 5, verses 22-23, where we find the Fruits of the Spirit, uses the Greek word χαρά (“chara”) for ‘joy’, which translates almost directly in the Hebrew. It has the same root as ‘Christ’ in χαίρω (“chairos”).
In English, it means “excited welcoming, a hailing”, and in the Greek, inspired in Greek minds pictures of ‘light’, ‘leaping’, and ‘a bright face’. And from these roots I want to draw three QUICK (I promise!) points as we define and secure joy.
Joy Is NOT Happiness
I hate seeing those words used interchangeably. It’s literally like saying that dog and cat are synonyms. Happiness is fed by outside circumstances. Joy is not. It is the expectant, elated, and excited welcoming of whatever comes our way. ‘Not happiness, but excited welcoming’.
So when Paul in Philippians tells us to again and again, he is telling us to “Have a confident anticipation for what might come, no matter what”. Which is darn near impossible to be honest. But our God is the Doer of Impossible Things, and has given us the same incredible power.
Joy is Found in Presence
Psalm chapter 16 verse 11 tells us that, “ Where? In God’s Presence! Where will we find ourselves excitedly welcoming whatever comes? ‘In God’s presence’! Why? Because when all hell breaks loose – literally – God is with us, and nothing can stop us!
Because if He is our Strong Tower and Defender, every time the prince of this world [the enemy] treads near us, he’ll be forced to kneel before the King of Kings, our Father, and we, His kings and priests (Revelation chapter 1 verse 6). So when dark draws near, if we only dwell in the Light – through the discipline of the Holy Spirit (seeking Him and imitating Him) – we’ll be able to comfortably welcome whatever is thrown before us. Because HE is our Source of Joy.
Pictures of Joy
Those word pictures – light, leaping, and bright faces – indicate something powerful. Just like love is more than an internal feeling, JOY is more than an intrinsic quality. It is a ‘fruit’. It is supposed to be visible to the world. We’re filled and empowered to ‘show God’s presence in our midst’!
The world MUST see that we are excited about what comes before us because we ‘trust God’. It’s hard, and it won’t always make us happy. I repeat, ‘Life with Christ isn’t always happy’. C.S. Lewis once quipped and he hits the nail on the head. The dead must bury the dead. We must give up everything to gain eternity. It hurts.
But we can be assured that in His Presence, the fullness of Joy is fruit for generations – people longing for the Source of Living Water, of Love… of the Life which flows through our ‘xylems’ as we advance on the gates of hell victorious with every step.
P.S. Xylems are plant veins – I had to Wikipedia it. Praise God for Grade 10 Biology!
Jak Hardy is the Founder of WorldChangers Global, an innovative not-for-profit tackling development through education. A leadership, development, and policy consultant, Jak aspires to be the world’s leading voice on the health benefits of Nutella. He holds a Diploma of Ministry, has trekked through a valley, discarded degrees in law, theology and politics, and is completing postgraduate business at the University of the Sunshine Coast.