Is JOY an emotion?

If you have been reading my blog in the last couple of months you will recall that in December I tried to write a post a day about JOY. I was recalling things, people, events etc.. that brought JOY to me during this past year (31 Days of JOY Challenge). At the time, this was a reminiscent series, it was one where I was searching for my old self, the ‘me’ that knew what JOY was all about.

In the midst of it all I knew that I would need to take this train of thought a little further and REALLY look at joy, particularly what the Bible has to say about it and how that applies to my every day life.

One day while in Cairns I was trying to think of the verses that easily came to mind with the word ‘joy’ in them. There were a handful but I stopped at one in particular. It was this one:

James 1:2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

As I concentrated on these words the thought struck me ‘is joy just an emotion?’. What I was getting at was that if we can stand back from a difficult situation and ‘consider’ it pure joy, isn’t that more of an ‘outlook’, an choice made in your brain after the fact?

I followed the Scripture links and of course this led to Romans 5:3-4 which mirrors what James 1:3-4 says. If you mesh the two together it looks like this:

Choosing JOY
As a response to trials (James 1:2) (suffering Romans 5:3) – the testing of your faith (James 1:3)

Produces perseverance

Perseverance produces character – (which gives us hope Romans 5:4) – (Hope does not disappoint as it comes from God Romans 5:5)

End Result
* Lacking nothing – (and the Crown of Life James 1:12)

What I realised is that Joy has two parts to it. There is the initial excitement type of joy that we may experience in life (baby being born, new job, wedding etc…) and then there is the controlled response type of Joy. The sort where we stand back, look at the situation and CHOOSE to see that we can grow from this experience.

Choosing to have that sort of outlook is very hard to do. God knew that when he had James pen the words:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6

So if Joy is not just an emotion but a choice that means that we can use any situation to change our outlook and work towards maturity.

I did do more on this as I pushed the study further and I’ll share that in another post. The last thing I wanted to say was that I realised that a lot of Christians ‘beat themselves up’ when their initial reaction to suffering or difficulties isn’t one of joy or trusting God. By understanding that this sort of joy is a process and a learnt response (learning to stand back, think things through and not just react) means that we can reach up and let ourselves off the guilt hook. I’ve got more to say on that but that’s another post.

So, is Joy an emotion? Yes. But, is it JUST an emotion? No. Its much more than that, its a choice of outlook that we can make in difficult situations which can cause us to grow. That’s what I have discovered anyway and I must admit, I’m going to need to ask God for whole lotta wisdom because doubt is something that creeps in all the time!

One Response to Is JOY an emotion?

  1. Great post. I’ve been planning on writing a similar one for a while, but I will just direct people here I think. The trouble is that joy is often used intechangeably with happiness, but I’m not convinced they’re the same. I like the way you’ve described joy as a mindset and something that needs to be learnt.

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