Living from Joy

Last time I mentioned that joy is found in relationships. You might wonder why this is so. First, psychologically speaking, as Dr. Wilder points out in the video clip, we bond at a very early age.  It happens in the first 24 months as the mother bonds with the child, through smell, taste, touch, visual, and voice tone. This bonding process creates a sense of joy and gladness in the child and gets hard-wired into the brain.

Dr. Wilder also says that the potential of all sorts of psychological issues can develop in the child, even forming negative personality traits, when a healthy bonding process doesn’t happen. There’s also an interesting article in Science Daily (found here) about this, based on a study done by Northwestern University.

Biblically speaking, our source of joy is found in God’s presence.

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 *)

As I said last time, God pulled out all the stops by sending His Son so that we could “bond” with Him forever. This bonding process is possible through the indwelling Holy Spirit given to us. And the fruit of this bonding is as follows:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal.5:22-23 NET)

This “fruit” describes a fully satisfied and contented soul at rest. What’s interesting to me about this bonding with Holy Spirit is that some of these attributes are similar to that of healthy bonding between a baby and mother in those critical first months.

So, how does this process work? How do we live from this joy? I believe that Jesus tells us in John’s gospel:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12 NIV *)

Before we get into this, I really like how the Message and Phillips Bibles translate verse 9:

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. (John 15:9 MSG *)

“I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. (John 15:9 PHILLIPS *)

We can break this passage down into the following points:

  • Jesus loves us exactly the same as the Father loves Him (vs.9). How much does the Father love Jesus? That’s how much God loves you.
  • We are told to remain, live, make our home in this love. Notice all that’s required is that we receive and live in God’s infinite love for us. (vs.9)
  • Jesus obeyed the Father’s command by remaining in His love and loving us with the same love He received from His Father. (vs. 10)
  • We will experience fullness of joy when we obey Jesus’ command, which is to remain in God’s love and love each other with the same love we’ve received from God. (vs.10-12)

Let me emphasize that obedience to Jesus is defined by other-centered, self-giving love. We first receive and love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then we go and love others with this same love. When we live our lives from this place, everything that God has ever wanted from us, from Genesis to Revelation, is automatically fulfilled (Matt.22:37-40).

This is exactly how God loves us. And the result is that we begin to experience God’s own joy, which results in our hearts overflowing with gladness.

11 My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! (John 15:11 TPT *)

Joy starts and ends with love, and this other-centered love is, by definition, relational. This is how we live from joy. Remember, joy does not depend on our circumstances, good or bad. We can have “pure joy” in the midst of very difficult times (James 1:2).

I truly believe this is the key to a life fully lived (and loved). And, as Warner and Wilder say in their book (Rare Leadership), we grow in maturity by growing our ability to experience joy. What this looks like is that I act like the same person, loving others and expressing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23), regardless of my circumstances, good or bad, and regardless of how others treat me. I begin to look and act like Jesus.

* New King James Bible translation unless otherwise noted. All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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12 Responses to Living from Joy

  1. Wally Fry says:

    I am enjoying this series, Mel. Despite what some of your slower commenters have said, from a Biblical perspective, there is clearly a difference between temporal happiness and spiritual joy found in the person of Jesus Christ. Lose our stuff, and we can quickly become “unhappy.” Yet, because Jesus won’t ever leave us, or let us go. we should be able to maintain our Christian Joy in the face of the loss of our “happy,” things. Might that show in the form or exterior happiness? Sure, why not.

    You know, the last couple of months have not been what most would call classically “happy,” around these parts. If you ever read over my way, it’s been one thing after another, and nothing has really gotten much better. Yet, there is more actual joy and love around here than you can possibly imagine. We have Jesus, and we have each other. Oh and lest some of your more vitriolic commenters want to take this description of joy to mean we are just a bunch of silly, stupid Christians sitting around praying and waiting for God to help us, we are not. That would actually be stupid. On a quite practical level, the ability to have peace and joy during life’s trials actually empowers believers to do something to improve things in a real sense. Our minds are not cluttered with worry and depression, leaving us free to actually strive to improve our situation and make the best of it.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Great comments, Wally. Sorry to hear about the troubles, but you’re right, one can actually experience great joy in the midst of the worst possible times. And while joy can lead to happiness, you’re generally not happy when all hell is breaking loose in your life. When my life totally fell apart in 2001, I grew so close to Jesus (after being angry with Him! LOL!) and felt such joy in the midst of paralyzing challenges I was facing, it actually transformed my life. My whole relationship with God deepened and changed forever. And this joy we get from the Lord, like any bonding process, produces tangible feelings of gladness and even bliss, which is crazy good when things are going so bad. We were built for intimacy in relationships because we were made for joy. This is why when we don’t get this it’s so sad. But it’s also why knowing that we’re never alone is so important. My relationship with Jesus has made me appreciate and see how important my human relationships are. There’s nothing better or more euphoric than marriages, families, and friendships where other-centered love is and living from joy. There’s nothing more tragic to the human soul when those bonds are broken.

      By the way, you mentioned your blog. I’ve been meaning to go visit and see what you’re up to. Thanks for bringing that up. See you there soon. 🙂

      • Wally Fry says:

        Great points about your trials back in 2001, Mel. One of the things that has hit us is my Father in Laws illness, which unfortunately won’t be cured, and will probably be fatal pretty quickly. In 12 years I have not ever heard him say much about God, or his relationship with Jesus, even though I know he has one. It’s amazing the peace he has with all of this, and the inspiration is is to all of us. It makes all the other stuff sort of pale in comparison when we see how he is handling his own earthly mortality. BTW, don’t go to my place expecting blazing intellectual thought LOL; I keep things pretty simple over there. I have you and IB for the deep thoughts LOL.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m very sorry to hear about your father-in-law’s illness but it’s awesome to hear how he’s handling it and the effect it’s having on your family. It’s also good to know that this earthly life is just a blip on the radar screen as far as our life goes. 🙂
          As far as your blog, simple is good! Sometimes I wish I could keep it more simple here. I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

  2. Well said, Mel! I like that word “abide,” as in “abide in me.” We’ve altered the meaning of words over the years, but it’s actually related to abode, we “abide in our abode”. So home is where our heart is, it’s were we abide. Babies don’t really care where they are, as long as they have their mama. They abide in that bonding.

    Another cool thing about joy, it actually empowers us to take action! In the absence of joy,you’re often depressed and just getting out of bed is a challenge. My hubby is one of those awful early morning people. He doesn’t appear outwardly joyful, but that’s what it is, excitement to have a new day, joyfulness because the sun came up. I know this because I don’t really share his early morning enthusiasm. 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      I like the word “abide,” too. Too bad it’s not a common word today. Whenever I use it, young people look at me like my cat does when I’m trying to explain to him to stop knocking my stuff off the table. LOL! You’re right about joy. It’s a much greater motivator than fear, which is the normal way people try to motivate. Joy-based leadership is the crux of the Rare Leadership book I mentioned.

      As far as early mornings go, all I have to do is show you the coffee mug my wife wants to get me. Pretty much explains my policy. 🙂

  3. sklyjd says:

    “Chemicals released in the brain in response to happiness include endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.”(Google)
    “One of the key areas of your brain that deals with showing, recognising and controlling the body’s reactions to emotions is known as the limbic system.” (
    “I feel the ultimate joy of freedom as an atheist.” (sklyjd)

    • Mel Wild says:

      Of course, sklyjd, that describes the brain’s response. And if you had watched Dr. Wilder’s video or read the article linked in this post you wouldn’t have had to repeat it. Dr. Wilder went into great detail about how the brain responds to joy.

      “I feel the ultimate joy of freedom as an atheist.” (sklyjd)

      How would you know? Sounds like a faith statement to me. But you can keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. Have a good weekend.

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