Since the early 1920’s believers have added their voices to a chorus, written by George Willis Cook. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart… You may be able to finish the chorus for yourself. It is a timeless song, because we all desire to have joy in our life. The fact that people search for Bible verses about joy, reminds us that joy can be elusive.
Joy, like any other attitude, can come and go. It is not guaranteed simply because we are believers. We must put ourselves in the places where experiencing joy is a possibility. Studying Bible verses about joy helps build an understanding of how to put ourselves in places where it is possible to find and maintain an attitude of joy.
But what is this elusive thing called joy? According to Dictionary.com, joy is “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” This is nice but we could experience this by eating bacon. Is there a better definition?
Joy is setting the soul upon the top of a pinnacle; it is the cream of the sincere milk of the Word. Spiritual joy is a sweet and delightful passion, arising from the apprehension and feeling of some good, whereby the soul is supported under present troubles and fenced against future fear. - Patti M. Hummel, Glorifying God
So how can we put ourselves in the place where exceptionally good things happen and our soul is supported under troubles? We can discover some very important principles by categorizing Bible verses about joy.
Verses About Joy in the Bible
There are 214 uses of the word joy in the NIV. Of those verses, nearly a quarter of those verses are found in the Psalms. For this reason, we can establish our principles of joy from the Psalms, then finding corresponding verses in other parts of the Bible. Here is what we learn.
1. Joy is not an emotion that can be forced, fabricated, or faked.
There are times when joy eludes us. This is normal and we need to understand that there are times when we will not feel joyful. Yet, it is important that joy cannot be forced.
There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? - Psalm 137:2-4 (NIV).
2. Joy is not dependent upon our circumstance
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. - Psalm 27:5-7 (NIV).
We can be in a difficult situation and yet experience joy. Jesus added to this by saying, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” - Luke 6:22-23 (NIV)
Though joy cannot be forced, it can be experienced in difficult situations. James adds to this thought with, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:2-3 (NIV).
3. Joy is possible when we feel secure in the Lord.
Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. - Psalm 4:6-8
While others link their happiness to prosperity, believers can find joy in the Lord. When we add our voice to David’s and proclaim, “You alone, Lord,” will be the lifter of my head. In you alone will I place my trust. Whether I am rich or poor, have an active career, or I can’t find a job, I am safe in you.
Paul wrote, “Be full of joy in the Lord always. I will say again, be full of joy. Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon” Philippians 4:4-5 (NCV).
4. Joy comes when we have a clear direction for our life.
We might also use the word purpose. The following verses about joy illustrate this principle:
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. - Psalm 16:11 (NIV)
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” – Matthew 13:44 (NIV).
Where is your hidden treasure? What is the path of life that God has for you? Are you seeking the fields for the treasure that God has for you?
5. Joy comes when we live in God’s presence.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken. - Psalm 21:5-7 (NIV).
In a world where celebrity, success, and money are glorified, it is easy to lose focus on what brings real joy. Put simply, this verse says, victories are good, glory is great, and splendor and majesty are their results, but my joy comes when I spend time in God’s presence.
Psalm 28:6-8 is another great text to illustrate this point, but let’s move joy Bible verses found in the New Testament.
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen - Jude 1:2-5 (NIV).
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? – 1 Thessalonians 3:9 (NIV).
6. Joy comes when we spend our life Praising God.
This principle may be the easiest one to embrace since church worship is filled with praise. But, let’s establish a Biblical pattern of praise.
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. - Psalm 27:6 (NKJV)
Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. - Psalm 47:1-3
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I whom you have delivered. - Psalm 71:23
Singing, clapping, and shouting are all a part of joyful worship. These three scriptures about joy only scratch the surface of examples of praise. Here is another example of praise found in Luke, “As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” – Luke 19:36-39 (NIV)
7. Joy comes when we live an honest Biblical life.
Perhaps the idea of honesty doesn’t seem to fit with principles of joy, but let’s look at the opposite side briefly. Dishonesty leads to guilt, and discouragement, while honesty breeds satisfaction, and peace. When we add the concept of Biblical honesty, then we discover true joy.
Hate evil, you lovers of the Eternal. He protects the souls of those who follow Him; He rescues them from the devices of the wicked. Light is sown in the just; as it grows, it brings joy to the pure of heart. Celebrate the Eternal God, all you who are faithful; offer thanks to His holy name. - Psalm 97:10-12 (The Voice)
Psalm 119 adds some important principles about following God, and being honest with following the scripture. It says:
The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end. – Psalm 119:110-112 (NIV)
Jesus offers his slant on being Biblically obedient. He says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” – John 15:10-12 (NIV).
There is no greater place to live than in the center of God’s will. There is no way to be in the center of his will without living according to the word of God. An honest Biblical life leads to a joyful life.
8. Joy comes when we continually praise what God has already done.
For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts! - Psalm 92:4-5 (NIV)
Not only does reflection fill us with joy, it makes us glad. But Psalm 126 adds the dimension of joyous laughter.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. - Psalm 126:2-3 (NIV)
Paul writes about the reason for remembering. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” – 2 Timothy 1:12 (KJV).
Perhaps no passage speaks to the joy of remembering better than in Hebrews 12.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV).
9. Joy comes when people see Christ in us, and exclude us from their ungodly actions.
This may sound like a strange principle, yet it has real validity. Quite often we feel bad when we are left out of activities, thinking that there is something wrong with us. But is it possible that they leave us out because there is something right about us? David spoke of those with evil motives:
Even though powerful princes conspire against me, I fix my mind on what You require. Yes, Your testimonies are my joy; they are like the friends I seek for counsel. - Psalm 119:23-24 (The Voice)
Even when David’s enemies were hunting him down and closing in, he was able to compose joyful psalms of praise to God. He rejoiced in his understanding that God, His Father, could flatten any army, resolve any conflict, and confuse the plans of those who sought to kill him. He was joyful in the Lord. - Ronald f. Youngblood, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
A similar situation of opposition occurred in the book of Acts: “So the message of the Lord was spreading through the whole country. But the Jewish people stirred up some of the important religious women and the leaders of the city. They started trouble against Paul and Barnabas and forced them out of their area. So Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet and went to Iconium. But the followers were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” – Acts 13:49-52 (NCV).
There are several other instances where Paul encouraged people who were insulted or rejected because of their faith. He always encouraged them to be joyful because they were suffering on behalf of Christ.
When people don’t want you around because of your faith, celebrate joyfully. You are being excluded because they see Jesus living in you.
My friends, do not be surprised at the terrible trouble which now comes to test you. Do not think that something strange is happening to you. But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. When people insult you because you follow Christ, you are blessed, because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you. – 1 Peter 4:12-14 (NCV).
Join the Conversation
With all we have observed, joy is a huge part of Biblical faith. There are many more principles in the scripture that we could observe. What principles of Joy would you add to this list? What Bible Verses about Joy did we miss? Leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you.