But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-24)
One of the wonderful things about joy is that it isn’t tied to your particular circumstances. In our consumerist age, where we are being sold the idea that we need this or that to make us happy, the subversive thing about joy is that it is not tied to material goods, or even circumstances.
The greek word translated ‘joy’ (chara) has the wonderful definition “the experience of gladness”. In Christian terms this comes from a sense of security in God. You are his, since he gave up his son for you. The Spirit of God resides within you, and you are in his care. This joy can bubble up in difficulty, and sustain in times of struggle. It is the kind of joyful security we see in Deuteronomy 33:27 where we read: “the eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms”.
There is more though. The word can also be used of a person who gives joy, something which can be seen when Paul writes to the church in Thessaloniki: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
This fruit of the Spirit, then, is not simply the receiving of Joy but also the giving of Joy. The two are often connected, as P G Wodehouse noted:
“As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.”