How Do You Define Joy?

How Do You Define Joy?

by Bill High

Joy. It’s a short but powerful word. Perhaps you can think of a moment of joy in your life? For many, it might be the moment of their marriage or the birth of a child.

At the same time, we’ve been taught and intuitively know that we define joy by more than a moment—it is more than circumstances. Happiness is dictated by circumstance.

Joy is more like a deep abiding.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” That definition leaves something lacking, however.

Theopedia describes it more convincingly as “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.”


Pastors define joy

Similarly, John Piper zeroes in on joy unique to Christians, writing, “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”

Rick Warren adds his own definition: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

I think these ideas drive us closer to the definition. Joy is a feeling, yes. But it’s also a confident abiding in the vine, which is Jesus (as laid out in John 15). It’s knowing that all of our life derives from the vine. But it is also the future expectation that everything is going to be okay as we draw life from the vine—no matter our circumstances.

Joy is the reason why so many have gone to a martyr’s death still confident and assured. Indeed, it is why Jesus could go to a cross “for the joy that was set before him.” (Hebrews 12:2)

All these ideas about joy make me pause. They make me ask, “How am I doing living in the joy, the confident assurance of a present and a future abiding in the vine?”


Joy and family legacy

As I experience joy for myself, I’m moved to work for the lasting joy of others. For me, joy is a powerful motivator for working to build a healthy family legacy shaped by generosity.

Joy rises from that confident assurance of God’s goodness, now and into the future. In the same way, I aim for my family—and yours—to experience that goodness and to impact others for good, now and into the future.

Visit Legacy for Families to find out more about family legacy and how you can be intentional in building into your family, for their lasting joy!


Joy drives me to live for others, to do my best work and to give generously. Read these related posts on how joy is related to Jesus and to generosity! 


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Published August 3, 2017

Topics: A Life of Faith


Comments 18

  1. To me joy is that blessed assurance that Jesus is mine, guiding me, leading and giving me the will to abide in Him and praise Him regardless of the circumstances.

  2. Joy is always being content with everything around you and for you especially when you let Holy Spirit lead you and guide you.

  3. Joy is a consuming emotion that abides forever. Joy is like a tree planted by the river, whose sap is cotinually being replenished, whether a leaf drops to the ground or not, the sap flows! haha!

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      1. JOY did you write a book on this? It is deeper then we think our mindset can be a stumbling block. Thank you for sharing JOY but I need to go much more deeper. JLU

  4. Joy is Jesus Christ centered confidence, believing he is who he says he is and us being who he says we are. With that, confidence grows in our hearts providing us with a smile that comes from that Joy!!

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  5. Joy, for me, as a Christian, has come to mean: Joy is a spiritual experience of living in a personal relationship with a personal God whose very nature and identity is Infinite Goodness. We cannot find true joy in the possession of good things but only in our relationship with Divine Personal Goodness. In life we focus on seeking the Infinite Divine Giver and not finite gifts.

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      That’s really wonderful, John. Thank you for sharing from what you’ve learned. I find that the finite gifts take on more significance and greater enjoyment because I enjoy them as gifts directly from the Good Giver. His gifts communicate His care for us, but also His joy, His creativity, His generosity.

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