PEOPLE want to be happy. But these are the last days, and everyone has problems that are “hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Some people lose their joy because they are treated unfairly, they get sick, they lose their job, or someone they love dies. Others lose their joy because something else happens that makes them worried or sad. Even Jehovah’s worshippers may become discouraged and gradually lose their joy. If this has happened to you, how can you get your joy back?
To answer that question, we first need to understand what real joy is and how others have kept their joy even when they had difficulties. After that, we will see how we can keep our joy and increase it.
WHAT IS JOY?
Being joyful is not the same as being cheerful. Think about this: A person who gets drunk may laugh a lot. But when he is sober again, he does not laugh anymore and may find that he still has many problems. His cheerfulness was only temporary and was not true joy.—Proverbs 14:13.
On the other hand, joy is the strong feeling we have in our heart when we get or expect something good. Having joy means being happy whether our circumstances are good or bad. (1 Thessalonians 1:6) In fact, we can be upset about something but still have joy. For example, the apostles were beaten because they were preaching about Jesus. However, they “went out from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.” (Acts 5:41) They did not rejoice because they were beaten but because they were able to remain faithful to God.
Joy is not something we are born with or something that comes automatically. Why not? Because real joy is part of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit. God’s spirit helps us to develop “the new personality,” which includes joy. (Ephesians 4:24; Galatians 5:22) And when we have joy, it will be easier to cope with our difficulties.
EXAMPLES WE WANT TO IMITATE
Jehovah wanted to see good things happen on the earth, not the bad things we see today. But even though people do wicked things, Jehovah does not lose his joy. The Bible says: “Strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” (1 Chronicles 16:27) In addition, the good things that Jehovah’s servants do make him rejoice.—Proverbs 27:11.
We imitate, or try to be like, Jehovah when we do not lose our joy if things do not happen as we expected. Instead of worrying, we can focus on the good things we have now and wait patiently for even better things in the future.a—See footnote.
There are many examples in the Bible of people who kept their joy even though they had many problems. Abraham kept his joy even when his life was in danger and when other people caused problems for him. (Genesis 12:10-20; 14:8-16; 16:4, 5; 20:1-18; 21:8, 9) How did he do this? By thinking about his hope of living in the new world under the Messiah’s rule. (Genesis 22:15-18; Hebrews 11:10) Jesus said: “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day.” (John 8:56) We imitate Abraham when we keep thinking about the joy we will experience in the future.—Romans 8:21.
Paul and Silas also had strong faith and kept their joy despite the many difficulties they went through. For example, after they were badly beaten and thrown into prison, they “were praying and praising God with song.” (Acts 16:23-25) They could endure their suffering because they continued to think about God’s promises for the future. And knowing that they were suffering because they were followers of Christ gave them joy. We imitate Paul and Silas when we remember the good results that come from serving God faithfully.—Philippians 1:12-14.
Today, too, there are many examples of brothers and sisters who have kept their joy despite facing difficulties. For example, in November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the homes of more than 1,000 Witness families in the Philippines. George, whose home in the city of Tacloban was completely destroyed, said: “In spite of what happened, the brothers are happy. It’s hard for me to express the joy we feel.” If we think about what Jehovah has done for us and remain grateful to him, we will keep our joy even when we have great difficulties. What other things does Jehovah provide that give us reasons for joy?
OUR REASONS FOR JOY
Our greatest reason for joy is our relationship with Jehovah. We know the King of the universe. He is our Father, God, and Friend!—Psalm 71:17, 18.
We are also grateful that Jehovah has given us life and the ability to enjoy it. (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13) Because he has drawn us to him, we can understand his will for us and we know how to live our lives. (Colossians 1:9, 10) However, most people do not understand what the purpose of life is. To emphasize this difference, Paul wrote: “‘Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.’ For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10) Understanding Jehovah’s will and purpose gives us joy.
Jehovah has done even more for us. He has made it possible for our sins to be forgiven. (1 John 2:12) He gives us the hope of life in the new world, which will soon be here. (Romans 12:12) Even now, Jehovah gives us many friends with whom we can worship him. (Psalm 133:1) He also protects us from Satan and the demons. (Psalm 91:11) If we keep thinking about these wonderful things that Jehovah has given us, we will have more joy.—Philippians 4:4.
HOW TO GET MORE JOY
Can a Christian who is already joyful get even more joy? Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be made full.” (John 15:11) This shows that we can always get more joy. We can compare our joy to a fire. If we want a fire to get hotter, we must add more wood to it. Remember: Holy spirit helps us to have joy. So if we want more joy, we need to keep asking for God’s spirit through prayer. We must also keep meditating on the Bible, which was inspired by the holy spirit.—Psalm 1:1, 2; Luke 11:13.
Another thing that will give us more joy is staying busy with things that make Jehovah happy. (Psalm 35:27; 112:1) Why? The Bible says that we were created to “fear the true God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole obligation of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) We were designed to do God’s will. So when we serve Jehovah, we will really enjoy our life.b—See footnote.
THE BENEFITS OF JOY
As we increase our joy, we will experience many other benefits. For example, Jehovah will be more pleased with us as we continue to serve him joyfully even when we have problems. (Deuteronomy 16:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Also, because we have true joy, we will not think that having many material possessions is the most important thing in life. Rather, we will try to make even greater sacrifices for God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 13:44) And when we see the good that comes from doing more for Jehovah, we will get more joy, we will feel better about ourselves, and we will make others feel happier.—Acts 20:35; Philippians 1:3-5.
Also, the more joy we have, the healthier we will probably be. The Bible says: “A joyful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22) A researcher who studied health at the University of Nebraska in the United States made a statement that agrees with the Bible. He says: “If you are happy and satisfied with your life now, you are more likely to be healthy in the future.”
So even though we live in stressful times, we can have true joy when we receive holy spirit by praying, studying, and meditating on God’s Word. We will also get more joy if we think about the many good things that Jehovah gives us now, if we imitate the faith of others, and if we try to do God’s will. Then we can experience what is described at Psalm 64:10, which says: “The righteous one will rejoice in Jehovah and take refuge in him.”
a We will discuss the quality of patience in a future article in this series on “the fruitage of the spirit.”