In part 1 of my joy study (see below) I shared that we don't experience soul-satisfying joy because we often try to find it in something else other than the only place it can be found; in God's presence. But that is not our only problem. For even when when we understand where it's found, we don't stay there. We don't experience joy the way God designed it because we don't stay where it's found. There are at least 4 scriptural explanations for why this is. The first and biggest reason is found in James 4:9, which tells us that sin turns joy into gloom. When we sin, we are choosing to move away from God. As we do that, we move further away from where true joy is found.
The second reason is found in Job 20:5. We are sometimes content with godless joy that ends up being momentary at best. The further we are from God, the more we try to fill our "joy meters" with other things. While these things (usually sin of some kind) bring "happiness" and "contentment", it doesn't last. It ends. Remember, joy as I understand it is, "happiness without end." Finding joy in something other than God will never satisfy.
Thirdly, where do we as typical Americans go to find joy? Most of us, in the church or outside, tend to find joy in possessions. The Bible warns multiple times, the most notable in Matthew 13:44 and Ezekiel 24:25; 36:5, that finding joy in possessions will end in the same place that finding joy in anything other than God does; lacking and wanting more. Your soul will never be satisfied with "stuff" because "stuff" is here today and gone tomorrow. There will always be a new and better something. God doesn't operate like that. Joy in God is found in an ever deepening relationship with Him. Joy in God is found in letting go, and letting God show you what is truly valuable.
Finally, Proverbs 15:21 teaches us that, as sinful people, we try to trade joy for folly. Dictionary.com defines folly as: "the state or quality of being foolish; lack of understanding or sense." That describes folly well, although I like to boil it down to simply: "the joy of the stupid." It's ok to be foolish, to be funny, and try to make others laugh. The problem comes in when that is all people get from you. God is more interested in you becoming wise and using that wisdom to further His kingdom. This is where joy is found. This is where we find fulfillment and usefulness.
So we don't stay where joy is found. Our sinful hearts try to substitute other things in the place of being in God's presence. No matter what we sub in, we are always found wanting. Being in God's presence is the only thing that will satisfy our need for joy, nothing else even comes close. We need to learn this lesson.
In the final post of this series, we will look at how joy is expressed and why we don't express it. More to come ...