Joy is an elusive concept for me because my human mind equates it with happiness: a fleeting, temporal state. So, I decided I needed to go down the rabbit hole of joy to find out what I lost and how to get it back. I thought you might be up for an adventure to find it with me as well.
It is hard when you lose something, yet you aren't quite sure what it is. There were many definitions for it, and many led back to its cousin, happiness. I liked this one the best:
"Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.
The expression or manifestation of such feeling."
Joy is two parts: one part intense emotion, the other part is the expression of that emotion. Joy is not only a feeling, but it is an action. This struck me as to how I could get my joy back. Usually, our thoughts precede our actions. But sometimes, we need our actions to precede our thoughts. Sometimes we need to act first in order to feel. The reason being is that sometimes our stubborn minds can change their emotional state to match our actions, but if we just start acting. My first step in working towards getting this lost joy to return to my life is start acting as if I am joy-filled: ecstatic about the life I've been given.
Ok, so I have got to start acting joyful...I'll work on that. But, then I started looking in Scripture and found myself a bit confused... my mother always told me to learn to be content, a state of consistent satisfaction no matter what my circumstance. Happiness, she would say, is only temporary, whereas contentment is everlasting. Joy, on the otherhand, seemed like something we are supposed to have continuously, like contentment. Afterall, it is a fruit of the spirit (one of the characteristics those of us who profess Christ are to exhibit in our lives at all times). But, the Bible seems to refer to many "kinds" of joy: short term, long term, joy in God, joy from God, and joy from others or circumstances. Sccrreeechhhh...I thought joy came in just one form and was meant to flow continuously??
I decided I needed to look at a couple of the "types" of joy we are supposed to have:
1.) Constant Joy:
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
One of my life verses here. God's will for us is to have joy AT ALL TIMES, irregardless of circumstance. This is the kind of joy I need to get back. Times are tough, man, but if I truly desire to be the child of God He has called me to be, I need to find joy in the good times and the bad. I think the key to having this kind of joy follows after the first three words be joyful always: we've got to pray for it and we've got to be thankful for what we've got. Being prayer-filled and focusing on that which we do have and our blessings can keep our hearts joyful.
2.) Trial Joy:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3 NIV
My FAVORITE kind of joy!! (Can you sense my sarcasm??) Ok, not my favorite, but the kind I am currently learning to have. Joy, yes Joy, in times of trial and difficulty. Right now, God has changed my thoughts from a ho-hum, "What else can go wrong?" to "God, how are you going to use all these wrongs to make a giant right in my life?" I have actually found an inkling of joy as God is taking me through tests and tribulations to get me a little more "refined" than I was before. I've "shed some pounds" of empty, worthless being and am finding Him just whittling down my spiritual waist to His perfect size for me. The process still hurts, but there is joy in knowing that God is going to make something good out of all the heartache. That is a unique kind of joy that I pray you get to experience.
3.) Thankful Joy:
"Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture." -Psalm 100:1-3 NIV
This is perhaps the BIGGEST type of joy we are to have: joy in knowing who created us. This is a joy that resonates in thanksgiving. This is a joy in the fact that we didn't get what we deserved, that we have a future and a hope beyound the sorrows of this place, and that we serve a mighty God. That is a BIG joy that should remind us when times are tough, we know someone who is tougher.
Joy. I think I lost mine. I think I lost all three types, maybe even more that I did not go into here, but I think God is showing me how to get it back: focus on Him and what He has done for me, focus on my blessings, focus on the wonderful changes in me that are coming from trials. Maybe I need to start acting joyful and my heart will catch up and fill in that missing joy I've lost.
Here's to finding what was missing...
Until next time,
1.) Joy check: Do you feel like you live with a daily joy? Why or why not?
2.) How do you think you can sustain joy?
3.) Have you lost your joy? How are you gonna get it back??