The second fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is joy.
God wants his people to be happy. The difference between joy and happiness in the world is that joy is happiness rooted in God. There’s nothing wrong with being happy because of the good things in life, but if they are our supreme foundation for our happiness, then we’ll end up disappointed.
Even the best relationships in life have strained moments. Spouses, children, and friends cannot sustain our full happiness. Our possessions only last so long before the get old, rust, or break. And once we die, we can’t take anything with us. Houses, cars, electronics, and bank accounts won’t sustain our happiness.
But God is eternal. And God is eternally joyful. He gives us good gifts to enjoy in life (James 1:17, 1 Timothy 6:17), but the Giver is better than the gift, and in the case of God infinitely so.
Jesus prayed on our behalf in John 17:13, “Now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy completed in them.” Jesus wants us to have full joy, his joy.
This sense of God-centered happiness doesn’t neglect the reality that life is hard and that many things seek to rob our joy. In fact, Jesus continued to pray in John 17:14-18 about how the world will hate his followers because it hates him, and how his intent is not to remove us from the world but to send us into the world just as he was sent to bring hope. And Paul in Romans 12 tells us that just as we are to rejoice with those who rejoice we are to weep with those who weep.
Life has many hard moments. Life has many circumstances that seek to rob our joy.
Yet, as Hebrews 12:1-2 explains, even Jesus could take joy as he looked toward his death on the cross for what it was accomplishing–our salvation. So, we can face trials with joy, not because the hardship itself is a happy occasion, but because God is going to bring good out of everything that happens (James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28-29).
And God provides for us that we can find joy in the good times and the bad, that we can find happiness in him even in the midst of sorrow and tears. He does it as his Spirit works in our hearts. The Spirit reminds us of the eternal joys that are coming that will drown out even the darkest moments of this day (Romans 8:18).
So, let us seek to be as joyful as possible and let us pray that God would increase his joy in our hearts.
Next time, we’ll consider the spiritual fruit of peace.
Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).