As I began reading and studying what the Bible says about joy, I was blown away by my first three observations.

1: God Wants You to be Joyful.

                The first principle I learned from that study was that God wants you to have joy in your life. On more than one occasion, Jesus said the purpose of the words he had spoken, is to bring full and complete joy to his disciples. Disciples? That means you and me.

                I would think that if Jesus was on your side and you wanted happiness, then that’s a pretty good chance you can have it if you ask for it[1].

                Then he says he’s going to give you what you ask of him, according to his will. He just said he wants you to be happy. That’s his will. Does he say that you will get everything you want, and your happiness will come from that? No. That’s the world’s definition.

                The Apostle John makes the same points in 1 John 1:4 where he said, “we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” See 1 John 1:4 saying God wants you to have complete joy. The writings John had in mind is the Bible.

                Paul prays for us in Romans 15:13, ”May the God of hope fill you with all joy.” He wants you to have real joy. Remember Jesus spoke, and John wrote so that your joy would be full.

                 Therefore, when you are suffering or in pain, when you have experienced a financial set back, or when your marriage or family in jeopardy, in each case above you should turn to the word of God for comfort amidst your afflictions, turn for comfort for your soul to be found in the Bible, especially the Psalms.

2: True Joy Comes from God, not Circumstances.

                The second principle was that joy has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with your relationship with God.

                Note how Paul describes his circumstances in 2 Corinthians 7:4-5

 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. 

And again, he writes in 2 Corinthians 8:1-2:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,  for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

                Some of you already know this principle intuitively, because you have seen plenty of the corollary: people who have no pain yet seem to be devoid of joy. Even people who have every circumstance lined up like ducks in a row can whine and complain and generally see the dark side of every cloud.

3: You Can Be Joyful in Your Trial or Suffering.

                The third principle was that joy can come to you while you are right smack dab in the middle of a trial. In other words, joy and pain can be felt at the same time! The presence of real genuine pain does not negate the presence of real genuine joy. Here it is clear, one can have joy during the affliction or trial, not just after the suffering is past.

                In Colossians 1:9-12 Paul prays for us:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for allendurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

                Paul is asking for me to have power so that I may have endurance and patience. Do you think he’s talking about going through a trial? Sounds to me like he’s talking about a trial. But Paul is not praying for you to just get through the trial. He is praying that you’re going to be joyful during and amid the trial! That’s a whole another ballgame. He doesn’t just want you to survive the trial, he wants you to be joyful in the trial.

                Peter makes the same point in 1 Peter 1:6-8:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory

                In 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul writes, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” John also speaks of the same principle of joy arising out of affliction in John 16:20: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” See 1 John 1:4.[2]

                God is nice. He is not mean. He’s not making you go through those trials to hurt you. God is promising us that his purpose for you is for you to have full joy, even in this life. True joy comes from God even when the circumstances are unfavorable, harsh, harmful, or just plain bad. The presence of real genuine pain does not negate the presence of real genuine joy.

                About financial setbacks, Hebrews 10:34 says, “. for you had compassion on those in the prison and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” That’s amazing. The fact that the Hebrews had their joy in abundance and overflowing while experiencing extreme poverty iscrucial to comprehend: their joy came while they were in poverty, not because their poverty had ended. In fact, Hebrews 10:34 makes it clear they were getting poorer when they had joy.

                God is not saying you won’t have your property plundered. He’s saying even if your property is plundered you can still be joyful. He’s praying that you’ll be joyful in your trial. He isn’t praying for the trial to end.

                See something unexpected is going on here. It is because the affliction is real. The person really lost their job. The person really got sick. The loved one really did die. Those are real things that really hurt. The affliction is real. How can that be when the trial stinks and it’s real, very real? – I’m not telling you your affliction is not real.

                Joy comes despite and without respect to the circumstances, but the joy is just as real as the affliction. And it is. It’s from God.

[1] See. e.g. Romans 14:16-17.

[2] See also John 17:13.