Our joy in God is bound up with our trust in God. The two cannot be separated — not ever. Trust is the backbone of joy. And joy is the outflow of trust in one who is fully Trustworthy.
We see this connection made throughout the Bible.
The Psalmist unites trust and joy:
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. (Psalm 5:11a)
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7)
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:21)
And the Apostle Paul unites trust and joy:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith. (Philippians 1:25)
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. (2 Corinthians 1:24)
And the Apostle Peter unites trust and joy:
Though you have not seen him [Christ], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8–9)
This is only a bare sampling of texts, the point is made repeatedly in Scripture. Confident faith and joy are bound up together.
The Fight for Faith and Joy
Nineteenth-century Anglican Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones summarizes the connection well: “Trust is an indispensable element of a happy life. A suspicious, distrustful soul is like one walking in a fog, chilling, perplexing, distorting. One of a trustful nature who has no one to trust is like a lonely traveler, hungry and homeless.”1
To be a trusting person, but to have no trustworthy object to trust in, results in tragic lostness. And to know One who is fully trustworthy, but to not trust him, is a chilling tragedy of its own, and yet we experience it in our daily Christian lives. How often do we walk in the chilling and perplexing fog of unbelief!
Calling Out Unbelief
Disillusionment and disappointment will always strike where genuine trust in God grows thin. And that’s why when trust is missing, joy will also go missing. There can be no joy in God where there is no firm trust in God, and no confidence in his all-sufficiency. And this is why we all feel the inner battle for joy, because we face a daily battle for faith. Our hearts are prone to trust in self, in money, in occupations, in a spouse, or in any other worldly security or circumstance. And when our faith wanes and we no longer trust God, we are set up for a disastrous fall into spiritual dehydration.
Unbelief, the Enemy of Joy
Eighteenth century pastor John Newton saw the challenge of unbelief in the Christian life, and employed the strongest language possible to confront it. “Unbelief is the primary cause of all our spiritual discomforts. This inability to take God at his word, should not be merely lamented as an infirmity, but watched, and prayed, and fought against as a great sin. A great sin indeed it is; the very root of our apostasy, from which every other sin proceeds. It often deceives us under the guise of humility, as though it would be presumption, in such sinners as we are, to believe the declarations of the God of truth. Many serious people, who are burdened with a sense of other sins, leave this radical evil out of the list.”2
Unbelief in the Christian life is serious business. Joy will not grow where faith is absent. “But,” writes Paul, “we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24). Until we have our confidence in God settled (what we call faith), our joy in God will remain elusive.
Unbelief evaporates joy. And very often the pathway to renewed joy in God begins when we evaluate the false securities of our lives and honestly assess whether we are trusting in our all-sufficient and all-trustworthy Christ for our eternal security and all our daily needs.