by Jan 16, 2009Dissertation5 comments

All right, you commenters. Now help me out here. What do you think of the following definition of “joy”?

Joy is the feeling that comes from something good happening to an object you love.

I won’t tell you whether or not I agree with this definition, only that it comes from a book I’m re-reading for my dissertation, Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotions in the New Testament (p. 166). So…

  1. What do you think of this definition?
  2. Whatever you think, is this what you usually hear?
  3. If not, what do you usually hear?

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Leave a comment.

  1. wdlowry

    1. It’s lacking, but I’m not quite sure why. This is my best shot: When you have to discipline your child, a good thing is happening to an object you love. But the emotion is not going to be pleasant or what people typically classify as joy.
    2. No
    3. Joy = happy feeling.

  2. battlesman

    1. What type of feeling is it? A pleasant one? An angry one? This definition doesn’t explicitly say.

    Who says it has to be an object? Paul had joy, but he definitely didn’t have “good” things happening to “objects [he] love[d].” Also, James said to “count it all joy” when facing “trials of various kinds” So therefore, joy is not necessarly a normal response to trials, but it is something you can put on, so to speak, even if nothing “good [is] happening to an object you love.”

    Who says it has to be a response? (“comes from”) I would argue that joy isn’t always an effect; it can also be a cause (at times).

    Overall, I agree with Lowry. It appears to be a weak definition.

    2. This may not be what the typical person thinks joy is, but if you asked that person if that definition sounded all right, he would probably agree.

    3. I think most would just say joy is happiness.

    4. So now the question is: What do you think of it, Mark?!?


  3. Duncan

    1. Too specific. Joy may result “from something good happening to an object you love,” but also occurs for other. Lowry and Battles note a few. This definition presents the whole as one of its parts.

    2. Maybe, depending on context. Is this an expression of the common association of αγαπαω with sacrificial love? If so, then some people might define joy this way when discussing the supposed αγαπαω/φιλεω contrast.

    3. Totally aside from #2, I think of joy as a spiritual fruit expressed even when I am not necessarily happy.

    2 Corinthians 7:4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

    Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

    James 1:2 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,”


    Does this mean we get to be in your dissertation? 😉

  4. mejohnso

    Hi Mark,

    I know I’m chiming in late (and after you already posted what you think), but here goes.

    With your definition above, it seems that the biggest difficulty is that God commanded us to have joy even in trials; usually interpreted as having “joy” (something bigger than a happy feeling) even when sad.

    I think this definition is good! “Joy is the feeling that comes from something good happening to an object you love.” Here’s my line of thought:

    I love God, and I believe that He is glorified (good for Him) when He makes believers (i.e., ME!) more like Christ. God is so big that He can use suffering/difficulties/trials to shape and make me more like Christ. When suffering hits me, God’s grace is sufficient enough to help me see the big picture–that God is glorifying Himself by changing me. And because of that, I can have joy–even a “happy” feeling–knowing that the object of my love (God) has something good happening to Him.

  5. Mark L Ward Jr

    Mejohnso, you nailed it (and your hubby was perceptive with his mentions of ἀγαπάω/φιλέω): we can have joy in trial by taking a more expansive view, just as Jesus did when He was motivated by “the joy that was set before Him.”

    I would add only that by the very nature of love, I find joy and, dare I say it, pleasure, in something good happening to God. And by the very nature of God’s world, something good happening to Him happens to be the best thing that could happen to me. I must never make myself ultimate, but the Bible promises me joy and I should (no, must!) let it motivate me.

    Deut. 28:47-48 “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you.”