Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


Joy is a Place

So there I was, cell phone in hand, desperately trying to get enough signal to call my dad back after his numerous phone calls that I had missed. I was in the building that I use to teach my music lessons, wandering around, eyes glued to the miniscule phone tower and bars on my screen. I meandered around, out of the room, down the stairs, out the heavy door, and finally got some signal! Elated, I was starting to dial the number when I suddenly realized that the heavy door to the building had thudded close. A warm wash of apprehension came over me—the doors locked automatically, and I had been so intent on my cell phone that I had neglected to grab a key, a coat, or any of my belongings! It was after dark, the place was deserted, and I was freezing cold. As I waited for dad to come riding up on his white horse to rescue me, (-: I told myself to have a good attitude. I reminded myself that it was my choice whether or not to let this ruin my evening as I paced to try to keep warm. It didn’t work. My thoughts kept wandering to the fun family outing I was missing out on, even as I tried to meditate on Scripture. The van finally pulled up and as I dashed over to get Mikaela’s key, all my good advice to myself went out the window. I was in a bad mood (and it didn’t help matters any when a younger sister crowed, “And you’re not even blonde!”)
This week’s adventure forced me to examine why I couldn’t simply say, “Oh well, the door’s locked—I’ll just enjoy this quiet time to myself and God while I wait!” Something had to be wrong—I was missing something. My first thought was that I must have lost my brain in order to perform such an escapade, but the more I really dug into it, the more convicted I was that I was missing joy. This is a dangerous place, for joy is a temperature gauge for the heart, whether it is hot, cold, or lukewarm.
I have a feeling I'm not alone in this lack of joy. Yet, though we know we want joy, it is still slippery and elusive. It is one of the most sought-after things, but many find it unattainable. And it is no wonder, when they go about achieving joy in the way this woman with a Ph. D does:
“I feel joy when my Inner Child feels loved by me, important to me, cherished by me, seen by me, valued by me. I feel joy when I attend to my wants and needs, saying "no" to others when I mean no, and "yes" to others when I mean yes. I feel joy when my Inner Child feels safe inside, knowing that I am taking care of her, knowing that I am connecting with my spiritual Guidance each moment so that we are not alone.[i]
Bologna! Is joy personal fulfillment and satisfaction? Christmas caroling and rousing music and jingle bells and helping the homeless? Is joy laughter and smiles—in short, is it a transitory emotion? I hope you’re saying no—joy is as unaffected by what is going on around you as a thermometer in your mouth is unaffected by the weather. “Happiness depends on happenings, joy depends on Christ. (Anonymous)” Joy doesn’t take the temperature of your circumstances and react—happiness does, but joy takes your internal temperature. Joy isn’t always laughter, either—it requires tears, disappointment, and heartbreak to really come into full view.
Right after Paul wrote to say that he would not be able to visit the Thessalonians, he wrote, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? (I Thessalonians 2:19)” So if joy isn’t an emotion, what is it? Joy is a place—the place your heart is. 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.” The only place of true joy is before the throne of God, bowing to the majesty of Christ. If your heart is in that place, your joy will bubble out from joy that God alone can give.
Think about the most joyful people you know—in my case, they are Christians who simply can’t help having a huge smile on their faces just like they can’t help talking about God! One anonymous quotation asks, “When was the last time you laughed for the sheer joy of your salvation?...Let the world see your joy and you won't be able to keep them away. To be filled with God is to be filled with joy.” David danced for sheer joy before the Lord, Hannah couldn't contain her joy when God gave her a child, and Job found quiet joy in his Redeemer even though his world was shattered.
This Christmas season, I leave myself with this resolution from Max Lucado on Upwords:
“I choose joy....I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical...the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God. “
Furthermore, I choose to dwell moment by moment, second by second, in that beautiful, lighted place before the breath-taking throne of God.

[i] Margaret Paul, Ph. D


  1. Laura, this is so true. What a wonderful way tp put it. I would like to repost this on our church's blog if I could. Let me know. Elena

  2. Elena--lovely to hear from you! You're so sweet! That would be fine to repost it on your church's blog if you link back to my blog as well. Thanks for asking! God bless!

  3. Very good! I myself have been slightly agitated this week. With finals coming up next week, (so far an A- average) the stress of it all has fowled my mood. Joy is something that tends to be hard to keep track of.

    To play devils advocate though, the Strong's Concordance gives the following explanation of joy:

    1) joy, mirth, gladness

    a) mirth, gladness, joy, gaiety, pleasure

    b) joy (of God)

    c) glad result, happy issue.

    Wouldn't it be safe to conclude that joy is an emotion based off of the above? Obviously, arguing semantics is worthless, but I sort of enjoy debate :).

    I still agree with the concept that joy should be immune to external events. James said in the beginning of his letter "Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds" (NIV).

    Thanks for the insight.

  4. Lauren, thank you for this good reminder of where joy is really found - in our God. I was kind of surprised and ashamed of myself this past week as circumstances threw me into a tailspin of emotions (the wrong kind) and I was definitely not responding with joy. I realized I had taken my eyes off God and His provision. He did answer my prayers, just not in the way I had anticipated.

  5. Thanks you for your encouraging words!


  6. Tyler--first of all, congratulations on your A! I always enjoy hearing from you, and your question encouraged me to dig deeper. Actually, Strong's definition of joy completely supports where I'm coming from. Notice that it didn't include happiness (except for "happy issue"). Additionally, the Greek word used in the Thessalonians verse I quoted means "calm delight." These definitions may seem like they consign joy to the category of emotion, but I beg to differ that for a Christian, joy is anything but emotion. Webster's 1828 dictionary defines emotion as "an internal motion or agitation of the mind which passes away without desire...emotions therefore, according to the genuine signification of the word, are principally and primarily applicable to the sensible changes and visible effects, which particular passions produce on the frame, in consequence of this reaction, or particular agitation of mind." Does this make sense? To the world, joy is simply a reaction that comes and goes, but to Christians it must be an ever-abiding heart attitude from dwelling in the presence of God--the only place of true joy!

  7. Ruthie--I'm right with you! (-: I don't even realize that I am lacking joy until the moment I really need it and my true, ugly character comes through!
    Karis--thanks so much for your comment, and I'm glad the post encouraged you! On a side note, I noticed you live in SC--my younger sister will be quite jealous as she has always wanted to live there! (-:

  8. 1.An affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.

    2.Any of the feelings of joy, sorrow, fear, hate, love, etc.

    3.Any strong agitation of the feelings actuated by experiencing love, hate, fear, etc., and usually accompanied by certain physiological changes, as increased heartbeat or respiration, and often overt manifestation, as crying or shaking.

    4.An instance of this.

    5.Something that causes such a reaction: the powerful emotion of a great symphony.

    Based off of the definition from above ( citation:, emotion is an agitation of the feelings, conscious but not cognitive.

    Furthermore, Strong's definition links joy with the following: mirth, gladness, gaiety, and pleasure. If joy is not an emotion, neither are the rest.

    Gladness, gaiety, mirth, and pleasure all instances of agitated feeling (definition of emotion). Given that, I would assume it safe to conclude that joy is indeed an emotion.

    To your account, definition three says emotion is actuated by experience. Yet would not salvation qualify for said experience?

    My conclusion: joy is an emotion. This does not mean that joy ought to be circumstantial, or wear off after long periods of time. Joy, like love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control, should remain with us.

    Sorry. Like I said, I enjoy debate.

  9. If I could add my two cents to the "debate" :), I would reference John Piper's "A Passion for the Supremacy of God in All Things" and say that joy is an emotion that we are _commanded_ to feel, especially in difficult or stressful situations. Our inability to ceaselessly view life's circumstances in light of eternity - thereby rejecting the emotion of joy for a (more satisfying?! it certainly seems so at the time..) emotion of discontentedness, impatience, etc, simply proves once again what an amazing God we have who still forgives and loves us in spite of our failure to always feel joyful in spirit. But saying that puts life back in perspective, and, O, what joy there is! :)
    Thanks, Lauren, for another good “eyes on the goal” sort of post!

  10. Tyler, Sarah, and all,
    First of all, I’m honored by the debate one humble little sentence has received (-: and I’m glad you all are thinking through everything carefully. Tyler, as you said, we are arguing semantics. We agree that joy should not be circumstantial or wear off after time. Sarah, you said that we are commanded to be joyful through all of life’s circumstances, and I completely agree with that. In my saying that joy is not an emotion, I was referring to the true definition of emotion as: “an internal motion or agitation of the mind which passes away without desire.” We all agree that joy should never be this, correct? Even Tyler’s definition of emotion distinguished emotion from a “cognitive and volitional consciousness.” Thus, if joy were an emotion according to these definitions, we would have no control over when we were joyful, which cannot be true because Philippians 4:4 commands, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” Additionally, Tyler, you asked if salvation would not qualify for an experience which brings joy. Interesting question, but does that mean that when I was shivering out in the cold with my joyless attitude that I really was not saved? Perhaps a better way to view it is that without salvation, true joy is impossible!
    However, guys, I want to bring us back to the heart behind the article rather than all of our discussion of words. The point is, we (through Christ) have control over when we are joyful. It is a sin not to be joyful, and we are to be joyful all the time, not because of our circumstances, but because of the fact that we dwell in the presence of God. Therefore, we choose joy, and then we may feel it. In this case, to help separate the two kinds of joy, I don’t view godly joy as an emotion as opposed to the earthly, temporary joy which usually is. While godly joy *can* be emotional and bubble up involuntarily, it bubbles up from a heart that chooses God. By and large, godly joy must be a choice to accept God’s joy and integrate that joy into our lives. When I got locked out of the building, I tried to feel joy, and it didn’t work because I wasn’t dwelling in God’s presence, choosing joy over self-pity. So here’s the bottom line: every dictionary will technically define joy as an emotion, but I argue that Biblical joy in Christ requires first a choice before you can experience joy. Thus, if you are choosing joy, does that not disqualify joy from being an emotion, based on the definition of emotion? I don’t define the Biblical joy as an emotion, because it changes my focus to eternity and helps to clarify it. However, you guys do define joy as an emotion, but simply change the definition of emotion when referring to Biblical joy—(“joy should not be circumstantial, or wear off after long periods of time.” “joy is an emotion we are commanded to feel, especially in difficult or stressful situations.”) Deuteronomy 12:18b says, “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all your undertakings.”
    Thanks again for the spirited debate with the attitudes of Christ-likeness behind everything.
    God bless—I’m going to get studying for my final projects!

  11. Good rebuttal. Essentially, the argument is no longer about Joy, but about the definition of emotion. I'll settle with that.

  12. Laura, I reblogged your post here:, with a linkback. Thank you and have a blessed Christmas!

  13. Thanks Elena! So fun--and I'm glad you wanted to share. On a side note, my name is actually "Lauren"--I'm sure I've misspelled your husband's name a hundred times too though! (-:
    God bless!


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