“When all the Israelites saw the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD coming into the camp, their shout of joy was so loud it made the ground shake!” – 1 Samuel 4:5 (NLT)
Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Most dictionaries define joy as the ultimate state of happiness, but in life I have found the two are different because their roots are found in different things. Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment generally brought on by favorable circumstances. When life appears to be going well, we find ourselves to be happy. But when life takes a wrong turn somewhere, happiness suddenly evaporates. Joy isn't like this though; joy is different.
Joy flows when we are in right relationship with God. Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Fullness of joy is found in the Presence of God. When we're positioned near to him, we will experience this kind of joy. From this vantage point he can also show us the paths in life that will ultimately be fruitful for us. Both joy and favorable circumstances, then, are results of our relationship with God. Our favorable circumstances do not drive our joy; our being in his Presence does.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Joy can exist even when our circumstances are horrible. Because joy springs out of a relationship, our circumstances and situations can be whatever they want to be, but our joy can remain fixed. If we are allowing the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives and we are moving in agreement with him, the normal outpouring of the relationship will be the the fruit of the Spirit, joy included.
The scripture says when the Israelites saw the Ark of the Covenant coming into the camp, they shouted with joy. The Presence of God rested on the Ark of the Covenant, and when his Presence came into the camp the people were moved into a state of joy. And not lukewarm joy. It says their shouts made the ground shake. When was the last time the Presence of God made you shout that loudly with joy?
We’ve become a culture that can shout madly at the rock concert on a Friday night, but come every morning we have a hard time finding our shouting voice when the Presence of God manifests itself. We’ve put God in a box and decided the appropriate reaction to his Presence is solemn reverence. While it is true God is worthy of our reverence and, at times, his Presence can even move us to be awe struck and dumbfounded, there’s also an aspect of who he is that brings a sweet and exhilarating joy from the depths of our spirits. We’ve got to recapture that experience with God. When we focus on the relationship we have with him, the love he has for us, and his desire to be in relationship with us through the sending of his Holy Spirit, the natural result is an outpouring of joy. Exhilarating joy.