As I celebrated my 26th birthday this last month, I started looking back at my 25th year of life. I thought about the defining moments that I had experienced over the year: from graduating with my Master’s Degree, to moving back home, to watching my mother fight (and beat!) cancer, to receiving rejections from medical schools, to lost job opportunities. If I am going to be completely honest, it seemed as if the number of challenging moments far outweighed the happy moments. But within these challenges, I have taken home one main theme: the importance of intentionally choosing joy.
For the longest time, I believed that because I was a Christian and filled with the Holy Spirit, that this happiness and peace of mind would naturally find me during challenging times. But, as I struggled with days of anxiety and depression, I was soon reminded how important it was to take action and seek out this joy attained and so freely granted to us through Christ when we abide in HIM.
Now, some days I find it takes more energy to seek out joy than other days. Is it just me, or do you feel like it’s so easy to let the most trivial things steal your joy? Whether it be sleeping through your alarm, spilling your coffee on your shirt on the way to work..But, we have the choice to decide whether or not we will allow these worldly events to strip us of the joy we have in Christ as we go about our daily lives.
So I started brainstorming; What are some of the ways we may combat these “joy stealers” and experience this overwhelming sense of peace and contentment through a life filled with disappointments and discouragement? Here are some ideas I have come up with:
- We may encounter joy by celebrating others and sharing with them in their joy.
One technique I adopted from a dear friend in college was the habit of writing one encouraging letter each week. I find that when I shift my mind from myself to others, I am able to climb out of the pit of self-pity that only leads me to a continual state of discontentment and unhappiness. This can be in the form of a simple text, a quick call on the phone, or a handwritten letter.
- We may encounter joy by coming to the Lord in prayer.
I have found that when I start my morning in prayer and ask God to open my eyes to the joys I will encounter throughout the day, my mind is set on things above. This communication with God allows me to see His presence within the chaos of the a long work day.
- We may encounter joy by adopting an attitude of thankfulness.
On days when I feel down, I like to write down all the things I am thankful for or brainstorm the ways in which I saw God work through me that day. Both lists allow me to recenter my thoughts and adopt an attitude of thankfulness for the many things that the Lord has provided me.
- We may encounter joy by living out our vocational callings.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I am working in the field that the Lord has called me to, I feel a deep sense of joy and contentment. As a future health professional, when I am caring for patients at the local nonprofit clinic or serving in Armenia on my family’s medical mission trip, the hardships and burdens of life seem to feel weightless. There is something about the refreshed spirit that follows when we are following God’s lead in our lives.
Now we aren’t promised as Christians to a life without hardships and trials. We will continually encounter situations and people that will attempt to steal our joy. But, we are promised fullness of joy when we abide in Christ and remain obedient to Him. Jesus reminds us of this promise in John 15: 7-11 (NASB):
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
David also was aware that an intimate relationship with His Creator and a life of obedience lead to a fullness of joy as he expresses in Psalm 16:11:
In your presence is fullness of joy, in your right hand there are pleasures forever.
So will you join me in this endeavor as we choose to seek joy each and every morning among the disappointments of life? As long as we remain in communion with Him and walk along the path He has for us, then we are guaranteed to be filled with new mercies each day.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.