The Greek and Hebrew definitions of the words translated as "joy" and its synonyms are virtually the same as their English counterparts, except for one whose specific definition is not "joy" but "blessed." This word, the Greek makarios, reveals much about some of the major sources of biblical joy. It frequently appears as the first word in the well-known Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, as in Matthew 5:3: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Strong's defines this word as "supremely blessed; by extension fortunate, well off, blessed, happy." The King James version translates it as "happy" five times. In a marginal reference, E.W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible says the word means "happy," and J.B. Phillips translates it as such in his New Testament in Modern English.
Spiros Zodhiates' Complete Word Study Dictionary (p. 937) gives a more comprehensive definition:
Blessed, possessing the favor of God, that state of being marked by fullness from God. It indicates the state of the believer in Christ, . . . said of one who becomes a partaker of God's nature through faith in Christ. The believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit because of Christ and as a result should be fully satisfied no matter the circumstances. Makarios differs from the word "happy" in that the person is happy who has good luck (from the root hap meaning luck as a favorable circumstance). To be makarios, blessed, is equivalent to having God's kingdom within one's heart. Aristotle contrasts makarios to endees, the needy one. Makarios is the one who is in the world yet independent of the world. His satisfaction comes from God and not from favorable circumstances.
The Amplified Bible translates Matthew 5:3 as:
Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 5 reads, "Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous) . . ." and verse 9, "Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous). . . ."
It appears that for us to experience biblical joy, the fruit of God's Spirit, we need godly inner qualities that we do not possess by nature. As with love—the love that springs from us by nature that is but a pale reflection of God's love—so also is it with joy. Until we come to the point where by faith we are supremely confident of God's presence in our life—of His providence toward us in the past, present, and future—we will not experience the enduring fullness of satisfaction God wants us to have.
A Christian's joy can be just as short-lived as anyone's in the world if we are seeking it for itself as the world does. Biblical joy is a fruit, a byproduct, an additional blessing, not the end in itself. It flows into and grows within the person whose life and energies are not focused merely on being "joyful." The lives of those in this world who are so zealously chasing after it prove this point. If they are still chasing it, they must not yet have it. God's Word also substantiates this.