Our summer worship theme at First Mennonite is; "The Challenge of the Fruits of the Spirit" For July 12, the theme is Joy and the scriptures we are using are: Gal. 5:22, 2 Sam. 6:1-15, Phil 4:4, Neh 8:10, and John 15:11.
Joy is an interesting concept, and tremendously challenging. I think it is very different from "happy". Happy seems an ephemeral emotion, situational and temporary. It's good to be happy, but I tend to experience it as episodic, it depends on my feelings about my immediate context. Joy is deeper, joy is a characteristic, a defining quality that is pervasive and permanent. Joy is a sense of purpose and rightness that is like an underground river that continues to flow no matter what events are happening on the land surface. True joy enables people to keep going in the face of hardship, to not give up, to have hope beyond themselves and the situations they are in.
When I read John 15:11; "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" or "Phil 4:4; "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice." I don't see anything that would make me 'happy'. Philippians is written from jail to a church that is struggling with disunity and disagreements about teachings. Lots of not happy! The surface certainly isn't pleasant, but Paul points the people toward their underlying cause for joy-the Lord is near, and peace will guard their hearts (v. 6-7). John records the words of Jesus as he encourages the disciples shortly before his death. He assures them that if they remain connected to God, they will "bear fruit". Their lives have purpose and direction through God, and that is a cause for deep joy, even when the presenting situation may not be happy.
God gives life purpose and direction, following God results in deep joy that life's crappy situations cannot ultimately destroy. I find deep joy in knowing that God is with us no matter the situation. Joy allows us to smile through times of tears, knowing that our foundation in Christ is solid.
The David story in 2 Sam. 6, is a bit strange applied to the theme of joy. When David thinks the ark is dangerous, he pushes it on other people. When he sees that it is a blessing, he takes it back. He dances exuberantly (with joy?) when the ark is brought into his city. I'm not sure how to use this story in thinking about joy. I don't think it reflects very well on David either. Any input from out there?