My name is Joy.
It’s a pretty good name, but as a more than a little depressed teenager who had the name Joy, well, I didn’t appreciate the irony much.
And as a person who is more than a little analytical, I thought really hard and long about what exactly this name I had means.
The name Joy has a less obvious meaning than you might think.
What is Joy? Obvious answer? I don’t really know about that. I’ve been told all my life that I somehow radiate Joy, yet I was not happy for all of that time. What was it that people would see when they saw Joy in me? Was it a fake smile? Or something deeper in my heart that I may not of even knew?
Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. ~Henri J.M. Nouwen
I saw this quote awhile ago and I love it. It describes very closely what I have come to know.
Joy is not simply an emotion, it is a choice. Like Love.
I’ve known and been taught since I was a child that love is more than an emotion, that it is something we choose to do. Love is an action word. I’ve written posts about this before, though I may never be able to fully explain the depth. Love is something you choose to do.
After all, Christ died on the cross in an action of love.
We are often confused by the idea that we have no say over love, or any other emotion that simply falls into our hearts and lives. We become ruled by impulse. And I will acknowledge that we have very little control over our hormones, and that some emotions overtake us completely, like grief. But I’ll disagree when one tries to boil down all “emotions” like love and joy into hormonal reactions that are dependent on circumstance.
It’s true that there is a hormonal response in us to good circumstances, and attraction, but those are hormones, not love and joy.
I choose to love my husband every day. It doesn’t matter if we’re feeling very romantic towards each other at that moment, or even if we are or are not feeling very attracted to each other at the time. Lets face it, life doesn’t always allow for blissful romance. True love is supposed to last into old age, when you’re all wrinkly and frail and might have to help each other with disgusting bodily functions. We constantly expect the “high” of hormones to last into that? Not so much my friend. But something deeper and stronger and much more lasting will, and it is a choice.
Ok, so maybe you might begin to see what I’m saying, but what about joy? How is joy a choice?
Have you ever seen someone who was full of joy even though circumstance said they shouldn’t be?
Someone in a hospital room? Or someone in a line to receive food? Someone who’s family life is in shambles? Someone in the middle of a horrible grief and loss? Someone out of a job? Or with some type of disability?
Most people in these circumstances you’ll find defeated and depressed, lost in their circumstances. But sometimes you’ll see someone, and you won’t understand what you see, because even in grief or loss, even in the midst of tears, they will have a deeper and abiding joy about them.
Where did they get it? How can they be this way? Where is the source of this joy?
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Psalm 43:4
You do getjoy from somewhere.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3
Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. Psalm 86:4
Joy does come from outside yourself.
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Acts 2:28
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you- I whom you have delivered. Psalm 71:23
For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. Psalm 92:4
When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16
Like Love, Joy requires a focus outside of yourself. The antithesis of love is selfishness, the antithesis of joy is self-focus.
But when we turn our focus to outside our own little world and circumstances, and look up with thankfulness at a Savior who loves us…
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
Our joy, my friend, is wrapped up in looking out, in looking up, and in the Love of Christ. Circumstances can’t touch that! Depression itself can’t touch it. And it does truly radiate in the hearts of us, His children, His kingdom.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17
And no matter what our circumstances we can hold onto and choose Him and His joy day by day. A free offering to us.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:6
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
It’s true, life can be a hard and bitter place, but it need not touch our joy, or our hope. Our Joy and Hope is Christ! And if we can just keep our eyes fixed, we will find that it radiates out of us no matter what we do.
~Joy Aletheia Stevens