A friend recently requested prayer that she would find joy in what is, for her, a very joyless work situation. Well, my first response was that she wasn't looking for joy, but happiness. Happiness comes with our circumstances; when things are going good, we are happy, but when things turn difficult and unpleasant, happiness flees, only to return when the trouble has passed. But Joy...ahh, joy can abide within us in the midst of the most difficult, unhappy circumstances...
So, my friend wanted to know, how do we find joy? And I, being older (barely), more experienced, and full of wisdom, said..."Good question." And I realized I wasn't really sure exactly how we find it. I mean, I know the stock scriptural answer, "Joy comes from the Lord," but if it is missing from our lives, how do we find it? Because, honestly? I could use more of it myself...there is a reason Eeyore is my profile picture! And while God has truly made me a new creation and removed the Eeyore from this heart, still, there are days....well, let's just say that if every cloud has a silver lining, there are days when I can find the tarnish on the silver lining...
So, I thought I'd look at how to find joy, and what I discovered anew is this: We don't find joy. We choose joy. If we are a Christian, God has already given us joy:
"The fruit of the spirit is love, JOY, peace..." 1 Cor 5:2
"Behold, I bring you good news of great JOY which shall be for all people..." Luke 2:10
Jesus is our joy, and through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, we have that joy placed within us.
But wait...if that's true, why don't I feel joyful? Because sometimes, I choose misery instead of joy, As ridiculous as that sounds, it's true--I choose focusing on my circumstances instead of on the promises of my Jesus.
Every morning when I wake up, I think, "no way. I am not getting up this morning...I hate getting up. I don't feel good. I'm still tired. Just forget it." And then I get up...
Why do I get up? Because I have two teenagers who depend on me, who won't get to school on time if Mom doesn't get them up and going. Because I have a job, and I like my job, and I especially like what my job affords me, like living in a house with a roof over my head.
So, even though I don't really want to leave the comfort and warmth of my bed, I choose to get up, because I know, deep down, that in the end, it's for the best.
Well, I need to remember that joy is a choice too...and sometimes, it is simply easier, more convenient, more "comfortable" to choose to focus on what I'm unhappy about. It's HARD sometimes to choose to look beyond the circumstances, but if we want what God has planned for us, we need to make that choice.
So, how do we CHOOSE joy? Because saying we need to, and being able to do it are very different things. Well, God has shown me over these past several days some very practical things we can do to help us learn to choose joy. Of course, there are many others, but these have proven to work for me. I'll break them into several blog entries, so this doesn't go on forever.
1. Spend time in the Word. It's my answer for almost everything, because it's God's answer for absolutely everything! We treat our reading of God's Word like it's optional, but if we want to live joyfully, passionately, abundantly, as God desires, this is NOT an option. The Word has the power to change our lives...literally! Jesus said, "If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you shall ask what you will, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." Now remember, JOY is one of the fruits...so, by letting his word remain in us, we become more capable of bearing, showing forth, that fruit!
You'll have to wait for the next posting for #2 and #3!
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4