Is joy escaping you? Does it feel more like something you are supposed to have and so have to conjure up? That pressure can really build up around the holidays. The good news is that there are things you can do to connect with joy.
4 Unexpected Routes to Joy
1. Admit there’s room for the opposite
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:8 NIV
If you are feeling pressure to be joyful, you may be feeling shame about where you are at mentally, physically or spiritually. God’s gospel plan didn’t require us to go to him—he came to us. God meets us in our imperfection offering mercy, grace, and unconditional love while we are at our worst. There is room for sadness, frustration, anger… humanity in you.
2. Talk about it
“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” —Ephesians 5:13 NIV
Finding an appropriate and safe space to talk about what you’re going through and feeling brings them to the light. It is there where God can take up the yoke of your pain with you, sharing the burden and beginning a healing work.
3. Practice gratitude
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” —Philippians 4:6 NLT
Yes, there is an imperative in there but there is also a road map to get there. Pray about EVERYTHING, be honest with yourself and with God about what it is that you need, and practice thanksgiving for ALL that God has done.
A friend’s 18 month old son was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the brain and nervous system. In the midst of the trauma, we began a habit of practicing gratitude with them. Thank you that the cancer was found, thank you for the team of world renowned specialists assigned to his care, thank you for the nurse who wept with them, thank you for the support community who know exactly what they are going through, thank you for chemo and drug trials, thank you for every breath, every smile, every step… thank you for teaching them to understand what’s happening and to advocate for their son, thank you that there has been No Evidence of Disease for two years.
The practice of gratitude built trust in God that allowed for joy that defied the circumstances.
4. Have eyes to see
“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” —Psalms 37:23 NLT
It’s easy to focus on the big stuff but there is profundity in the details. When you slow down and take in the details, awe and wonder often follow.
The sound of laughter. The late afternoon glow. A pleasant conversation with a stranger. A blanket of freshly fallen snow. The symmetry of a seashell.
A Deeper Joy
As you know well, as followers of Jesus, we have access to joy much deeper than circumstance… a joy that is forged in the promises of God. This joy is rooted in the fact that God is with us, in us, and around us, providing us with a joy freed from circumstances.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23
Jesus was born in a barn, poor, far from home and safety, hunted by the authorities. Yet his coming was suffused with joy. We too can experience that joy regardless of our earthly condition, our present challenges, or our life circumstances. Our home is ultimately not of this world, and we can see a joy that goes far beyond it.
Connecting to Abiding Joy
Take a moment to meditate on the joy of the Lord and how you might help spread that joy to others.
- What dualities (suffering/joy) are you struggling with?
- Who are the safe people in your life that can help you bring your struggles into the light? Are you a safe person for others?
- What burdens are you trying to handle on your own? Spend time taking them to God.
- How has God been at work in your life? Create a gratitude journal.
- Take a walk or drive or sit on a favorite bench for the sole purpose of noticing beauty. Thank God for the details.
An Undivided Heart- This book isn’t an instruction manual with step-by-step procedures. It is a journey, unique to you, that begins with your unique relationship with Jesus. Living with an undivided heart will naturally lead to living an undivided life. Cultivation of the heart flows into action.
“A modern day guidebook for a Jesus-style ministry and a must read for the Church.” —Tammy Dunahoo, Director, Leader Health & Development,The Foursquare Church