“Jesus makes it possible for us to experience a joy that we would not know otherwise. But the joy we experience this side of eternity is merely a foretaste of what is to come.”
We usually think of joy as an emotion, but there is much more to the joy spoken of in Scripture. Joy, like emotion, is a byproduct of something else. However, it does not arise from circumstances or atmosphere but comes from God. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
Because joy originates with God, it is also a fruit of righteousness. Joy is especially associated with Jesus, who is the epitome of God’s righteousness and is the source of our righteous standing before God. When the writer of the book of Hebrews quotes Psalm 45:6–7, he reveals that it is actually a description of Jesus Christ: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (Heb. 1:9).
It was the prospect of joy that motivated Jesus to endure the shame of taking our sin upon Himself and to bear the brutal suffering of the cross in its atonement. No doubt this joy was partly an anticipation of being restored to His former glory (Heb. 12:2). But it also seems likely that Jesus looked forward to the prospect of sharing His joy with us. In the parable of the talents, the master commends the two faithful servants with these words of promise: “Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21, 23). The Greek word used in these verses is “joy.”
Joy is correlated with the “blessedness” Jesus described in the beatitudes (Matt. 5:1–13). Far from being a drab faith marked by bleakness and drudgery, the Christianity of the New Testament is a pilgrimage made both in joy and into joy. Jesus makes it possible for us to experience a joy that we would not know otherwise. But the joy we experience this side of eternity is merely a foretaste of what is to come. For now, our sense of joy is only temporary. We experience it in moments or as episodes. But in the Kingdom of God, joy is the predominant climate. In eternity, joy will be our continual state.
For Further Study
To learn more, read Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis (HarperOne).