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Choose Joy

You can live a joyful life

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: This Bible study shows you many ways to experience God’s love, including choosing joy—instead of feeling gloomy and focusing on the negative.


Do you often focus on the negative or find yourself feeling gloomy? If so, you aren’t alone. Many people—including me—have fallen into this trap. Unfortunately, we often miss out on the joy God offers us.

I love what Jesus said in the gospel of John:

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11).

If you would like to experience the joy Jesus was describing, it is my prayer that this online Bible study will speak to your heart.

Our joy is “in the Holy Spirit”

Are joy and happiness the same thing? The Bible doesn’t answer this question directly. Some people think they are the same thing.

However, there is a difference. Happiness is related to our circumstances and relationships, while our joy is “in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). That means our joy comes from the Holy Spirit living in us and working in us. We rejoice in God’s presence.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

Here’s an example that illustrates the difference between joy and happiness: If you make an amazing play on the football field, you probably will feel happy. However, if you are severely injured, you probably will feel unhappy.

In either case—happy or unhappy—you can feel joy, knowing that God is with you and that he can bring good things out of your injury. The following passage by James has encouraged me many times:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Paul likewise wrote about going through troubles and hardships. In the following passage, he let us know we can be “sorrowful, yet always rejoining.”

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses … sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:4,10)

What do you think?

1. What is the difference between joy and happiness?

2. How is it possible to rejoice at the same time you are sorrowful?

3. When James wrote “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2-4) when you go through hard times (trials). Do you think he was telling us to feel pure joy? Why or why not?

Choose joy

After becoming a Christian, I began to feel depressed and discouraged much of the time. However, after reading about Jesus’ promises of a full, joyful, and peaceful life. I realized that I must have been approaching life wrong. Jesus promised something that I was not experiencing.

Since Jesus promised you joy, why not be joyful?

As I meditated on the Scriptures, I came to the conclusion that since Jesus offered me joy, I had the ability to choose to walk in joy.

The knowledge that I could choose joy transformed my life. Each time I started to feel gloomy, this question surfaced in my mind: Since Jesus promised you joy, why not be joyful?

I realized there was only one good answer to that question—to choose joy. As Jesus’ promises became more and more a part of me, I found that I could actually choose to be joyful. Notice that Paul didn’t tell us to wait until we felt like rejoicing. Instead, he told us to rejoice:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

Be joyful always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. (Philippians 3:1)

What do you think?

4. Could choosing joy help you live a more joyful life? Explain your answer.

Focus on the positive.

It’s easy to lose your joy when you think about all the negative things around you. The following passage let us know we can actually choose what to think about. This makes it even easier to choose to be joyful.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

In a sense, choosing joy sounds like positive thinking, but it is more than that. It is choosing to experience the joy God offers you and not be ruled by your emotions.

What do you think?

5. Is it possible to choose what to think about? If so, what are some practical steps you could take to make this part of your life?

Related: God’s love for you

Related: Getting Started, Getting Connected

Find joy in Christ

The writers of the New Testament lived joyful lives because of their relationship with Jesus—in spite of the fact that many of them went through intense problems and suffering. As you read their comments, ask God to help you find joy in the same ways they did.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Joy in your relationship with God —

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Joy in worshiping —

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. (Psalm 5:11)

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:1-2)

Joy in seeing people you help grow in Christ —

Indeed, you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:20)

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us (2 John 1:4)

It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:3-4)

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:4-6)

Joy in seeing Jesus preached (no matter who is preaching) —

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)

Joy when going through troubles and suffering —

I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. (2 Corinthians 7:4)

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

Make it personal

6. The Bible says joy is part of fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). What do you think that means?

7. Describe a time when you experienced joy when worshipping

8. Describe a time when you experienced joy when seeing others grow in Christ.

9. How is it possible to be joyful when you go through troubles and suffering?

Don’t feel guilty if you go through grief

Although the joy of the Lord can help you through many hard times, there may be times when your main emotions are sorrow and grief. That’s natural, and God understands.

For example, read about the time Stephen was stoned to death. Godly men mourned deeply when they buried him (Acts 8:2). Or read about the time Jesus wept when he saw Mary and some other Jews mourning because Lazarus died (John 11:33-38).

Related: Encouraging others

Memory verse

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Personal application

1. Would you like to experience more joy in your life? If so, what do you think has held you back from knowing God’s joy?

2. This study says our joy is in the Holy Spirit. What does that mean?

3. What is the difference between happiness and joy?

4. Describe a time when it would be possible to be joyful even though you are not happy.

5. This study says you can choose joy. What do you think this means?

6. How can focusing on the positive make you more joyful?

7. Review the way to find joy under “Find Joy in Christ.” Name one of the ways that inspires or encourages you. Explain how this inspires or encourages you.

8. Ask God to help you choose to be joyful.

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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