10 December 2010

Question of the Week:
What is Joy / Rejoicing?

by Anne Lang Bundy

Some of the [Christmas] words have been worn out. Can you put “glory,” “joy,” “Messiah / Christ,” etc. in today’s vernacular?
~ Don Kimrey

A wonderful Q&A theme for the Advent season is to revisit biblical definitions of these words. We'll insert the quintessential Christmas word “peace” for "etc.," and spread the answer out over four posts:

December 3: Glory
December 10: Joy / Rejoice
December 17: Peace
December 24: Messiah / Christ

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Image source: denverbroncos.com

The Finnish language has three dozen different words for snow. Some of us understand the difference between Colorado champagne powder, Michigan sleet, and springtime mashed potato snow—any of which may be a foreign concept to the Floridian.

The Bible has over two dozen Hebrew words and about a dozen Greek words used in 69 different ways to express joy and rejoicing, with an astounding variety of concepts. Three basic points that the Bible makes about joy and rejoicing are these:
rejoicing actively shares unrestrained joy
• joy is commonly connected to labor or
• lasting joy springs from the
Lord’s goodness

Some Hebrew & Greek words used to describe rejoicing include ideas of exult, cheer, make merry, gush, burst out, laugh, congratulate, celebrate, gleam, be bright, skip, jump, leap, dance, twirl, spin, spring, stomp, shout, boast, sing, scream, clamor, toss the head, enjoin, hurry eagerly.

Perhaps the clearest example of biblical-style rejoicing in our culture is watching sports fans, particularly at season’s finale. Otherwise staid and placid humans go into fanatical frenzy and embrace strangers when their team overcomes all others. I well remember being in the Denver crowd which threw a parade for the Broncos in 1978. After a thirteen losing seasons, we didn’t seem to mind that our team returned from Super Bowl XII as the NFL’s Number Two.

The Bible often describes the most intense joy following the most intense sorrow. Among Jesus’ last words before His cruel death were these:

"Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you."
~ John 16:20-22 (NKJV)

I have never known a time when so many Christians are struggling through so many intense difficulties. Amid affliction, how do we produce the spiritual fruit of joy (Greek chara—delight, cheerfulness)?

We keep our hearts mindful of the blessings we do have by continually expressing
thanks to God. We express love, because we know God's love. We remind ourselves often that of all the good things we might ask from God, He already offers us His greatest gift: His Son Jesus.

Now when [the shepherds] had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child... Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
~ Luke 2:17,20 (NKJV)

If you're able, picture the shepherds high-fiving and hugging one another, then jamming cell phone lines and putting Twitter & Facebook "over capacity" in the excitement to share their joy.

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com

© 2010, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. well...thank you for the link to "everything" which was interesting enough for me to book mark. and thank you for all those scripture links too. it made for a wonderful Bible study this morning!

  2. Aw, I love how you modernized the shepherds joy. That image is going to stick with me all day.

  3. thank you for sharing this...

  4. "I have never known a time when so many Christians are struggling through so many intense difficulties."

    This is my observation as well. Joy, Faith, and Purpose, all in the face of difficulty, seem to be linked.

    Thanks Anne

  5. Bud ~

    So sorry to be so long replying. It's encouraging to know that you found this post on rejoicing & joy worthwhile. Thanks! :D

  6. T ~

    The image of shepherds high-fiving, etc. is the closest I can get to imagining how we might respond. They and we are not so different, I think.

  7. Natasa ~

    Like the shepherds, you and I may be separated by great distance, but we have more in common than we are different. Thanks for being here. : )

  8. Russell ~

    You make me think hard again. If Joy is our strength, and Faith is believing in what we cannot see, Purpose must be what motivates each person. I don't think any of us are without Purpose. But unless we understand how we've defined it (whether intentionally or unintentionally), we will flounder in fulfilling it. Having identified it, we must determine how fulfilling it will, in turn, prove to us.