Dear Beloved in Messiah,
Joy vs. Happiness
Last month, I wrote about suffering. This month, the Lord has directed me to focus on JOY. According to Vocabulary.com: “Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good and you can’t help but smile. It’s the opposite of sadness. When people are successful; or safe; or lucky, they feel happiness. The ‘pursuit of happiness’ is something this country is based on, and different people feel happiness for different reasons.” From this definition, it is clear that happiness depends on life’s circumstances. On what happens! When things are good, one can be happy. Lack of success, on any level, can result in sadness.
Joy, on the other hand, in the true biblical sense, does not depend on external circumstances. It depends on God. He is the source of joy. While happiness is mostly external, joy is mostly internal. One is usually temporary or fleeting; the other is a permanent state of being. The source of one is the flesh. The other is the spirit. Joy comes from a deeper well.
JOY and the Presence of God
A traditional rabbinic belief is that a true sign of the presence of God is JOY, based on Psalm 16:11, “…in Your presence is fullness of joy…” This should be convicting for all of us as believers, since a traditional Jew should be able to see God in us—through our JOY. Are we joyful as a people? I am exposed, on a regular basis, to what I like to call “childlike joy.” I see this joy in my grandchildren: Liam, age 5, and Lucia, age 3. Liam loves bugs, insects of any kind. The other day, we spent an hour catching spiders. Liam found them. It was up to me to catch them. Liam would often joyfully say, referring to the bug, “He likes me. I am his friend.” He said the same thing when we caught multitudes of nasty looking caterpillars. I must admit that it was hard for me to join Liam in his joy, but I so enjoyed seeing his joy in the simple things of life. Liam’s little sister Lucia has joy about everything—if she is the one who can pray before meals or if she has the opportunity to kiss a boo-boo on someone’s foot. Lucia has joy when she sees that someone else is happy. “Abba, please give us the gift of childlike joy—especially joy in You. Help us to experience the type of joy that is expressed by the Hebrew word gil גיל (GEEL) which means spinning or twirling around with joy!” (I picture Lucia twirling around in her princess outfit.)
God is the one who can make us joyful. Upon returning from captivity in Babylon, the Jews kept the Passover with joy: “And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful…” (Ezra 6:22). “With joy” in Hebrew in verse 22 is b’simcha בשמחה (b’sim-KHA). Simcha שמחה (sim-KHA) is the most common word for joy in the Tanakh. This joy is always connected with the God of Israel and is known as simcha b’shamayim שמחה בשמים (sim-KHA b’sha-MYEEM), or joy of heaven.
In the Brit Hadashah, the New Covenant, joy is defined as a fruit of God’s Ruach רוח (roo-AKH), His Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). True biblical joy comes from the Spirit of the Living God as opposed to the flesh. (See Gal. 5:24-25). Where God is present, through His Ruach HaKodesh, there is joy. When He dwells within us by that Spirit, the joy is there—waiting to be released.
I believe that joy is a first fruit of love—God’s love for us—especially His anticipatory love. We serve a God Who anticipates our needs and often answers us before we even call. (Is. 65:24) This kind of love is beyond our comprehension but real nevertheless. It has been a major part of my life since July 25, 1973, the day that I surrendered my heart and life to Yeshua the Messiah. Pray with me: “Abba, please open my eyes to your anticipatory love, and help me to receive it with joy. In Yeshua’s name, Amen.”
Shout for JOY
“Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, (rinna רנה, ree-NAH), all you upright in heart” (Ps. 32:11). There were shouts of joy on Friday, June 24, 2022, as the Supreme Court of the U.S. overturned Roe v. Wade. In this historic, far-reaching decision, it was declared that the constitutional right to abortion upheld for nearly a half century no longer exists. Those of us who are pro-life—and I believe pro-Bible—rejoice that this ruling will mean the saving of countless babies’ lives. (Abortion rights now have returned to the individual states, so prayer needs to shift in that direction.)
Not everyone has joy concerning the Supreme Court decision. Abortion-rights advocates protest loudly about “women’s rights.” They do not stand for the “child’s rights,” since they do not consider the child in the womb to be a person. But God does. A well-known psalm expresses His joy over children in utero, as well as our joy that He knew each of us when we were yet in our mother’s womb: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139:13-16). God’s Word is a source of JOY to His children. I wrote a song about this which opens each one of our Jewish Jewels television programs. It is based on Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy, (l’sasson לששון, l’sah-SOHN) and rejoicing, (l’simchat לשמחת, l’sim-KHAT), of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.” May the Word of God become an ever-increasing joy of our heart as we prepare for the return of the Living Word, Yeshua.
JOY in the Race
The Brit Hadashah emphasizes that believers in Yeshua are in a race. I never focused on this aspect of our walk until the radiologist at MD Anderson, in commenting on my second bout with breast cancer, said, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” While a marathon is a long-distance foot race of 26.2 miles, a sprint is a short, fast-paced race. Speed is crucial in one, endurance in the other. When I returned from Houston, I was bombarded at every turn with the words “marathon vs. sprint.” Rabbi Joe Vitkus of Temple Aron HaKodesh spoke about our journey through this life to heaven being a marathon not a sprint. The Costco magazine cover featured “The Ultra-Marathon Man.” Newsweek said that the evolution of Juneteenth was a marathon not a sprint. Rabbi David Chernoff spoke about the race at Messiah 2022. On and on.
I looked into the Bible. The Apostle Paul spoke a lot about his life in Messiah being a “race,” like a marathon. His goal was to finish with joy. “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy…” (Acts 20:24). The Passion translation beautifully expresses Paul’s motivation and goals in his personal, spiritual marathon. May they be ours as well: “I admit I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose that Yeshua Messiah has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover. I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however, I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight for the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Yeshua” (Phil. 3:12-14).
There can be joy in the journey, in our own personal marathon, as we continually breathe in the breath of life—God’s Spirit—trusting Him for endurance and help in persevering, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Yeshua, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2). WE were the joy set before Yeshua. May HE be the joy set before us.
JOY in the Mourning
Notice the word “mourning,” not “morning,” as found in Psalm 30:5: “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy, (rinnah), comes in the morning.” I have found in my life that joy and mourning are not mutually exclusive. Neither are joy and tears. The joy that God gives is supernatural and not dependent on our life situations.
The Messiah’s mission as prophesied in Isaiah 61:1-3 included, “…to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (This glorifies God; vs. 3.) What is this “oil of joy?” Oil, in the Holy Scriptures, is symbolic of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. Joy flows from this Spirit. “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52). “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). The Apostle Paul commended the believers in Thessalonica for their good example to other followers of the Way: “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy in the Holy Spirit” (I Thess. 1:6). Joy—in the midst of affliction—even mourning.
In the final analysis, joy is a choice. We must choose joy daily and determine not to let HaSatan steal our joy from us. The prophet Habakkuk points out the choice that we must make: “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy, gil (GEEL), in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17-18). Imagine spinning with extreme joy, gil, when your business fails, your house burns down, your husband walks out, you are diagnosed with cancer, or you are fired from your job. There is absolutely no way in the natural. But, we can rise above the natural—not by might, nor by any power of our own, but by the Spirit of the Living God. In Yeshua, you can still choose joy.
JOY and Laughter
When was the last time you had a good laugh? The Bible says that laughter is good medicine: “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Prov. 17:22). Laughter can be godly—and good—and can open the door to joy. It is good to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously (especially as we advance in age).
I recently found a collection of funny church bulletins in my files (not meant to be funny), and they made me laugh. I hope they make you laugh, too!
- “Don’t let worry kill you. Let the church help.”
- “Thursday night – potluck supper. Prayer and medication to follow.”
- “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.”
- “This afternoon there will be a meeting in the South and North of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends.”
- “The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.”
And now, for some classic Jewish humor:
- “Three bubbies sitting on a park bench. The first one lets out a heartfelt ‘Oy!’ A few minutes later, the second bubbe sighs deeply and says, ‘Oy vey!’ A few minutes after that, the third lady brushes away a tear and moans, ‘Oy vey iz mir!’ To which the first bubbe replies: ‘I thought we agreed we weren’t going to talk about our children!'”
- “What’s the difference between a Jewish mother and a rottweiler? Eventually, the rottweiler lets go.”
- “Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible? Samson: he brought the house down.”
- “A rabbi skips services on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year, to play a round of golf. He has an amazing game, and on the 18th hole, scores a hole in one. The rabbi is ecstatic. An angel turns to God and says, ‘God, why on the holiest day of the year would you let the rabbi get such an amazing score?’ God says to the angel, ‘Who’s he going to tell?'”
The JOY of Yeshua
The Messiah Yeshua spoke much about joy in His final messages to His talmidim תלמדים (tal-mee-DEEM), disciples. We read about this joy in the Gospel of John. I suggest that you read all of John 15 and 16. Yeshua said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (Jn. 15:11-12). Is the Messiah saying that our joy comes in some way from loving others as He has loved us? This reminds me of the traditional holiday acronym for JOY: Jesus, Others, You—in that order. In other words, love the Lord first, then others, then yourself. I tried for days to make this “Messianic,” and all I could come up with was JOY: Just Our Yeshua. In other words, our number one priority should be to love Yeshua. If we do that first, the other loves will supernaturally follow as led by the Ruach, and we will have joy.
Thinking of others before ourselves and reaching out to them is really a key to having joy. In giving we gain. This is beautifully expressed in a devotional that I have read daily for the past thirty years: God Calling by Two Listeners. These two lovers of God heard the Lord saying, “You are to help save others. Never let one day pass when you have not reached out an arm of Love to someone outside your home—a note, a letter, a visit, help in some way. Be full of joy. Joy saves. Joy cures. Joy in Me. In every ray of sunlight, every smile, every act of kindness, or love, every trifling service—joy.”
When Yeshua was about to leave this earth and His faithful followers, they were sad, but He reassured them: “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (Jn. 16:22). The following promise is one that Neil and I almost always gave to people who prayed with us to receive Yeshua: “Until now you have asked nothing in My Name [they had no right to]. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full [the joy of salvation]” (Jn. 16:24). We tried to emphasize that these new believers should ask BIG because God would surely fulfill this promise. I will never forget when Carol A., a single mother, told us that what she really needed was lawn service, since it was too hard for her to cut her grass. We told her, “Forget lawn service. Let’s agree with you for a husband who will cut the lawn for you.” She did. We did. God did. A great match followed. Ask BIG for BIG JOY!
Praying that your joy may be full,
P.S. Joyce Meyer’s book, Be Joyful, is based upon the teachings of the apostle Paul. Insightful, practical, and timely. Order yours today. (Calendars are also ready now for the High Holidays!)