As I have focused on joy this month, I have become aware of just how much I confuse happiness (based on circumstances) with true joy (based on my relationship with Christ). A.B. Simpson talks about joy in a very profound and helpful way, defining what true spiritual joy is — the kind talked about in Galatians 5:22-23 as a fruit of the Spirit. Hopefully, this helps you too–
The joy of the Lord springs from the assurance of salvation. It is the joy of salvation. Its happy song is,Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchased of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.
If you would know this joy, you must accept God’s promise with full assurance of faith and rest upon His word without wavering or doubting.
This joy is the joy of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is… joy” (Galatians 5:22). It is not indigenous to earthly soil; it is a plant of heavenly birth. It belongs to the kingdom of God. To know this joy, we must receive the baptism of the Spirit in full surrender and simple faith. It is characteristic of all who receive this baptism that they know the joy of the Lord. Until we receive this eternal fountain in our heart, all our attempts at joy are but surface wells. They are waters often defiled, and their bottoms are often dry. We talk about the great Artesian stream, the “spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
This joy of which we speak is likewise the joy of faith. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him” (Romans 15:13). There is indeed a deep delight when God has answered prayer and the joy of fulfillment and possession overflows with thankfulness. But there is a more thrilling joy when the heart first commits itself to God’s naked promise. Standing on His simple word in the face of natural improbability or seeming impossibility, it declares, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17, 18).
If you are doubting God, you need not wonder that your joy is intermittent. The witness of the Spirit always follows the act of trust. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). It is just as true conversely that “if you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).
—Larger Christian Life, A.B. Simpson