What Is Joy?

I listened to a podcast this morning from the late, Dr. Adrian Rogers (

I first heard of Dr. Rogers in 2004 when he pastored Bellevue Church in Memphis, and I have listened to his sermons ever since. There’s never been one that didn’t teach me something new, make me laugh, or even step on my toes. I was honored to meet him before he passed away.

This particular sermon from the podcast focused on Psalm 51, and there is one point that stood out to me, even above the overall message. I heard the word joy.

Now, my meager summary here will not do justice to all Dr. Rogers said, but I’ll try and give you the Keysha version. 💕

As he went through the account of David’s repentance with the Lord after having an affair with Bathsheba, and even committing murder, he was describing how sin saddens the heart. It had broken David’s heart.


“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”


This is a very familiar verse to me and one I often pray for someone close to me.

Then, Dr. Rogers goes on to compare the difference between joy and happiness.

This was right up my alley.

In Psalm 51, which is a beautiful passage of a remorseful child of God…David was not asking to have his salvation restored. He was asking for joy – “the joy of your salvation” to be restored.

His sin of adultery and murder was “ever before him.” He was miserable.

Dr. Rogers said, “The most miserable man on earth is not a lost man, but a saved man who is out of fellowship with the Lord. You can be saved and be miserable.”

He went on to make these points:

When God saves you, He doesn’t fix you to where you can’t sin anymore. He makes it so that you cannot sin…and enjoy it anymore. You feel conviction, remorse, guilt and brokenness – these are all indicators of your salvation.

People can say no one is supposed to be joyful all the time. Bad things happen and times get tough.

Joy does best in tough times.

In fact, the Bible says in Philippians 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

The Bible doesn’t say to always be happy. so, what’s the difference?

✖️Happiness depends on happenstance.

✔️Joy depends on Jesus.

✖️Happiness is like a thermometer – it registers conditions.

✔️Joy is like a thermostat – it controls conditions.

It is the JOY of the Lord that is your strength.

One of the only things that can take away your joy is sin – your sin. No one else can take it…not a disobedient child, not unfaithful husband, not an ungodly government, etc.

These people/things didn’t give you joy to begin with – Jesus did.

If the joy is not there, then it could be because we are not abiding in the Lord.


These were the quickest notes I could take as I paused and rewound the sermon podcast. I left my outline as a blog draft and headed to my own church service.

On the way, I pondered my own sin of hate against the people who had heaped suffering upon me for several years. I had allowed them to steal my joy by becoming a unforgiving person who no longer saw them through the eyes of Jesus.

At church, Melody and I took our usual seats on the back row. Back row Baptists. #guilty 😉

Pastor Kenneth Bruce is a phenomenal pastor. Growing up with a grandfather who is a pastor, and then having opportunities to hear many guest preachers from across the country while attending GFBC, I can honestly say Kenneth Bruce is now one of my favorites.

Yesterday was no different and you can find his messages at

However, sometimes I get distracted during church. 😂 What am I saying? I’m distracted outside of church, too.

He may say something that cross references with another verse, and then I see something else on that page – and before I know it, I’m flipping pages as Melody takes the outline notes for me.

It’s funny how my 16-year-old automatically hands me the paper outline at the end of the service. She’s a rigorous note-taker at school, sometimes even writing notes again when she gets home, color-coded and in special fonts. 😂 I. Love. It.

Somehow, along the way of his message, I ended up in Philippians.

You should know that I am using a new Bible for 2018. This is the first time I have stepped away from the Bible I received from Clique on our wedding day (2005), where the pages are filled with notes, dates, names and moments.

Memphis author and my former pastor’s wife, Donna Gaines, once challenged us at a women’s conference to start using a new Bible every so often, so the passages can become fresh to us once again.

We can become prideful opening up our Bible with almost every page marked with highlights, and skip over verses we think we’ve studied enough, read a hundred times, and have mastered.

This is not true. The Bible is the living Word of God, and no matter how many times you open it, God always has new insight for you.

I would have totally skipped past Philippians 4 because it’s a well-worn passage in my old Bible, but in this new Bible of blank pages of black print, I glance down to see, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” at the top of the page.



That’s how God speaks. At least…to me. I see repeating messages from sermons, a devotion, a song, an Instagram post, and I know I’m headed in the right direction.

I even made a note of both sermons at the top of the page so I wouldn’t forget this moment, including what I had already learned from Dr. Rogers earlier in the morning. Then, I turned back to 1 Peter so I could catch up to Pastor Kenneth (and Melody).


I’ve been researching this (unintentionally) for about three years. I became acutely more aware of it after I broke my leg last year.

There is another verse in Psalm 51 that I found during that time of confinement, frustration and disappointment… one that I had never noticed before. Verse 8.

Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice.”

I was so stunned by this revelation that I had my x-ray printed with the verse.

This became my inspiration last year as I struggled from the many, many limitations of my injury, surgery and recovery. Rejoice. Rejoice always.

I am still not completely healed in my right leg and ankle, and will soon have another procedure in a vein that was damaged, but I think my heart has healed more.

Now, I am truly thankful 14 months later for this physical reminder to choose joy.

I started this blog around that same time last year, and my instagram page, @thegladgame. I did it to force myself to find something to be glad about when I didn’t really want to, and not because I’m a real-life Pollyanna.

In the classic Disney movie, I was actually the latter Pollyanna, paralyzed in the bed, refusing company, and didn’t want to play the glad game anymore. She didn’t even want steak and ice cream.

Pollyanna had to find her joy again.

And, here I am, today….still finding it.


Copyright © 2018 Keysha Thomaston®. All Rights Reserved.

@thegladgame /

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