What Is Joy?

Recently, in my therapist’s office, I came up against a question I couldn’t answer.

What does joy look like for you?

I know this is sad, but it’s easier for me to answer questions about sadness, worry, anxiety, and pain than it is for me to answer a question about joy. It’s also easier for me to tell you what joy is NOT than to describe what it is. And that disturbs me so much that I’ve really had to put some thought into it.

What is joy?

As a child, I would have been inclined to say that joy and happiness are the same thing. But I learned the fallacy of that a long time ago. Joy is far deeper than just warm, fuzzy feelings.

Because I yearn for safety and security, I am tempted to tie my joy to feelings of safety and security. But I can also be honest with myself and admit that some of the times I’ve been most joyful in my life have been when I wasn’t necessarily safe and secure. Examples of that range from times I’ve been out on the open sea in a wildly rocking boat (which I LOVE) to being in the middle of a riot during an attempted coup of the government in Kinshasa, DR Congo (I could hear screams and gunshots, but it never occurred to me that I could be hurt – and I came out without a scratch.).

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a realization that joy isn’t just a thread of our life. Joy is a tapestry made up of lots of different threads – happiness, safety, security, contentedness, trust, confidence, freedom from worry (and probably some I’m not thinking about). The definition I came across that resounded the most for me was this one by Kay Warren:

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

Let me translate that to plain English: Joy is knowing that while everything may not be alright right now, it’s going to be alright eventually.

What I read from Margaret Feinberg this week goes right along with that. I’ll give you three quotes that resounded for me this week:

“Great joy waits in the furor of our daily battles.” (ebook location 665)

“Not in escaping the trials but enduring them we discover the fruit of perseverance blossoming in our lives.” (ebook location 668)

“Life’s thorniest paths can lead to great joy.” (ebook location 694)

Thankfully, that day back in my therapist’s office, she didn’t really expect me to have the answer. She was just inviting me to stop looking at the pain and start looking at what else there is out there. And that’s an invitation I’m glad to say that I’m taking her up on.

This post is part of a weekly book discussion on Margaret Feinberg’s book, “Fight Back With Joy.” You don’t have to read the book to chat with us, but if you have written a response to this week’s post, feel free to link it up below. Then, run over and visit my co-facilitator and friend, Jason’s place, to see what he has to say.

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About Sarah Salter


  1. Barbara Capps says:

    Yep, there is a lot more out there.. Sometimes we have to walk through the tall grass, till we get to the good one so to speak…. “JOY”

  2. Keviana Elliot says:

    A good, solid look at the thing. I’m proud of us, Sister Princess. One step closer to feeling it. You rock.

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    One step at a time, Princess Kevi! Thanks for making the journey with me! 🙂

  4. Keviana Elliot says:

    God is good.

  5. Keviana Elliot says:

    Um… your comment thingy ate my heart emoji and put question marks in its place… Feeling confusion… Need joy, stat! O.o

    Trying again.


    With a hash tag.


  6. Sarah Salter says:

    LOL! I love me some good hashtags, Keviana! #muchlove

  7. What a powerful thought, Sarah. How many times can we define pain so much more easily than we can define the good things–joy, love, acceptance, forgiveness. It’s not that we haven’t experienced them, but pain has been so prevalent. And yet, He is the Healer… Thanks for this. Here’s to experiencing and knowing true joy!

  8. What a wonderful invitation, Sarah. I am thrilled you are on this journey to discover what joy looks like.

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