"And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." Acts 13:52
My first experience with the word "joy" came at the birth of my little sister. My parents gave her the name, Joy Dawn. After two sons, a daughter brought them joy, indeed. She still does.
The word is difficult to define, but the absence of joy in a person's life leaves a hole in the soul that can only be filled by Jesus. The world thirsts for joy, but has substituted entertainment as the source for it. Drinking from the well of entertainment is like swallowing salt water. It creates more thirst, and never satisfies the deepest craving of the soul with joy.
Joy is the God-given, Spirit-filled, blood bought capacity of a believer in Jesus Christ to rise above the intimidation of the immediate. Joy places confidence in the promises of God, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." It is not based on happenstance, or the need for good things to happen in order to be HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY. Apologies to the dudes of Duck Dynasty. I mean no disrespect.
Joy is a Spirit-driven response, from within the heart of a person who has had a heart transplant. At their conversion, they exchanged their fearful heart for a joyful heart. They put their trust in God, in the name of His Son, Jesus, and they received the Person of the Holy Spirit. From that moment on, the character of Jesus flows through them developing in them an awareness of the Father's love, and His capacity to care for His children...come what may.
Joy is the child-like quality that rests in The Father's ability to care for His own. It is based on His sterling reputation as a promise keeper. Praying to the Father, in the name of Jesus, keeps the intimacy of the relationship between Father and child clearly in mind. When crisis comes, rather than losing heart, or giving God a piece of their mind, The Spirit releases joy in their heart, and a genuine peace of mind.
"Prayer is the intimate communication between the Heavenly Father and His child." Don Miller, Father of Joy
Joy is the over-riding sense of well-being in the face of overwhelming circumstances or irritating people. Happiness is based on having things go "My Way." Joy is content to have things go "His Way." The joy is in the journey, and the journey is with Jesus. Joy looks into the eyes of Jesus to see if He is disturbed by what is happening around Him, and follows His lead.
Note to self: When Jesus panics. Feel free to panic. Until then, enjoy your walk with Him. What else have you got to do?
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. Note the combination. This is no coincidence. The lack of joy reflects emptiness. The presence of joy reflects fulness. Be filled with the Spirit is not a suggestion. It is a command. Joy comes in the morning, but why wait. Joy is as close as your next act of obedience. Be filled.
The disciples were filled with joy, in spite of the things that happened to them, not because of the things that happened to them. Look at the laundry list of grievances that the early disciples could have brought before God. They didn't turn the record of wrongs into a "Whine List." They turned it into a prayer list. Big difference.
Moaning and groaning through a list of wrongs rarely leads to joy. This is not praying. It is a form of complaining. The Spirit knows the difference. He is charged with interpreting your prayers to The Father. He is not running a "Complaint Department." Stop complaining. Start praying.
Praying leads to joy, when it reminds you that the company you keep is more important than the people who have rejected you. The early disciples were beaten, imprisoned, murdered, harassed, slandered, run out of town, and "filled with The Spirit." The result? JOY.
Joy is not a because of kind of emotion. It is an in spite of kind of perspective. Joy turns, "I can't believe they are doing this to ME", into "Jesus, I can't believe WE are going through this together." Joy doesn't pretend something doesn't hurt, or someone isn't offensive. On the contrary, it takes the hurt and the offense to Jesus, and walks with Him through the pain and the rejection, until confidence is restored in the face of the crisis.
Praying can deteriorate into whining, if it fails to lead to listening to the voice of Jesus. Praying improves your hearing. Listen when you pray, "WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING?", and you will hear Jesus say, "I have overcome the world." Calm down. Kneel down. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!