Trials in life are not the factor that determines if we have joy or sorrow. In fact, both Paul and James tell us to rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3 and James 1:2). It is our perspective regarding our circumstances that will govern the emotions we feel. In both these passages, the apostles tell us to rejoice because the Lord uses difficulties to develop in us a mature Christ-like character.
Joy is a little different than happiness. Cheerful feelings are a result of pleasant experiences in our lives. But they tend to come and go according to our circumstances. Joy is much deeper and includes feelings of contentment and peace. Of course, happiness, pleasure, and enjoyment often accompany joy, but not in every case. For example, when my 54 year old brother died of cancer, I truly grieved the loss of no longer having him here on this earth with me. But deep in my heart I felt joy for I knew he was now in the presence of our Lord. He was beginning the most amazing joyful abundant eternal life for which God created him.
But how do we maintain a heart of joy? Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. He says that actively rejoicing will guard our hearts (Philippians 4:4 and 3:1). David has the same advice: “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips” (Psalm 34:1). Because we know that God is Sovereign and promises “to work all things together for our good if we love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28), we can thank Him for everything going on in our lives. “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 5:16-18). When we give thanks even for the difficult trials, this praise releases the power of God and amazing works of the Lord result. God is glorified and the power of darkness is broken. Satan’s workers flee in the midst of praise.
Finally, spending focused time with the Lord in worship, prayer, and meditating on His Word will result in a heart of joy. “Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence” (Psalm 21:6). God’s Word gives joy to our heart (Psalm 19:8). The more consistently you meet with God, the closer your relationship with Him will grow. As you increasingly seek to be in the presence of the Lord, You will find His joy growing deep in your heart!