When You Need a Little More Joy and a Lot Less Drama

The word “joy” hardly describes our common experience the last few months. Frankly, it’s time we put a little joy back into life. Why? Because, as Nehemiah put it, “The joy of the Lord is your strength”. (Nehemiah 8:10)

But how?

Recently I read words written by my friend, Jean E. Jones, that woke something inside me: “I took my first step toward joy when I was a teenager”.

My first step toward joy.

I’d never considered joy something we take steps toward or away from.

But as I thought about it, I knew it was true.

You’ve probably heard someone say, “Choose Joy!” And while this sounds wonderful (why do pithy statements look great on a pillow, but feel impossible to put into practice?) I need a little more info on how to do this, exactly. One doesn’t choose joy like she chooses a flavor of ice cream. It’s bit more complicated than that. At least it is for me.

So, how does one take a step toward joy, exactly?

For starters, we must acknowledge that most of us function as if joy is a byproduct of our circumstances. While it would be naïve to say our circumstances have no bearing on our state of mind, it’s equally naïve to think our emotional state is solely dependent on our circumstances. If you’ve ever traveled to a third world country and witnessed the joy found among people who have virtually nothing, you know what I mean.

So, if joy isn’t merely a result of our circumstances, what does produce joy?

Essentially, joy is a byproduct of two factors:

  1. Our Perspective
  2. Our Practices

Here’s the truth about joy: I may not be able to control what’s going on around me, but I can control what’s going on inside me. What does this mean in practical terms? I. Control. My. Joy. 

I can't always change my circumstances, but I can always change me. Click To Tweet

This is where perspective and practices come into play. This is also where I choose to take a step toward joy or slide into a pit away from it.

So, let’s look at each factor individually:

  1.  My Perspective

Studies show that how we perceive something has a bigger impact on our happiness (or lack of happiness) than the thing itself. James 1 tells us, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials”. Whoa. Wait a minute. Perceive a problem with joy? That sounds crazy, right?

It sounds crazy–until we consider the alternative: consider every trial something that sucks me dry and ruins my life.

Who wants to live like this?

Except too many of us do.

The word “consider” means, “to lead with your mind”. As long as we lead with our emotions, joy remains contingent upon having circumstances just as we like. This paradigm positions us for a lifetime of joyless living; one small setback can leave us irritable and miserable for hours, if not days.

Unless, of course, we choose to lead with our mind, and change our perspective.

A narrow perspective makes us small minded people, tossed and turned by every wave of change. But a broad perspective allows us to see the bigger picture of how our circumstances grow us and groom us for more, not less. Trials can help us depend more on God, or lean more on friends and family, or pray more fervently, or love more compassionately, or live more graciously, or make necessary changes we’d otherwise avoid.

If you struggle with lack of joy and want to change your perspective, ask, “How can God use my circumstance to grow me, guide me, or give me an opportunity I wouldn’t have otherwise?”

2.  My Practices

Have you ever noticed how what we do affects how we feel? This is why our practices influence our joy.

I was an adult before my mom revealed a small practice she adopted to turn folding the laundry from a duty she dreaded to a task she enjoyed: As she folded our family’s clothes, she prayed for each of us by name. Not only did this small practice make laundry more tolerable–and eventually even enjoyable–she logged hundreds of hours praying for my dad and us kids.

Is it any wonder my mom is one of the most joyful women I’ve ever known–even to this day?

You and I can make the same small changes in our practices, too.

  • We can practice gratitude.
  • We can practice forgiveness.
  • We can practice laughter.
  • We can practice rest.
  • We can practice thoughtfulness.
  • We can practice worship.

I’ve discussed other mind/body/soul strategies for joy in previous posts, too. These positive practices are first steps toward more joy, but equally important are the attitudes and actions we must step away from in order to reclaim our joy.

Things like:

  • Bitterness
  • Resentment
  • Jealousy
  • Complaining
  • Overwork
  • Avoidance
  • Comparison
  • Sin

We can all use a little more joy and a whole lot less drama. The good news is that we control our own joy. This is an empowering truth, but it’s also a sobering one.

Let’s take a one small step toward joy by broadening our perspective and being pro-active about our practices.

The joy of the Lord is our strength!

You are loved,

Donna

P.S.  THIS WEEKEND I’ll be speaking along with ten other amazing speakers, authors and leaders at the VIRTUAL CONFERENCE,  “A Little She Time”  . I’d love to have you join me!

To register click here.

PSS.  Did you know I share short weekly wisdom videos on Instagram? Recently, we’ve been learning how to increase peace in our life–something we all need now, more than ever! Follow me on Instagram @donnaajones.

 

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