Seeking Joy

April 28, 2015

I remember as a child my mom gave me and my brothers each a small rock with a word etched into it. I remember opening my present to see the word “Joy” engraved on my rock. My mom went on to explain that she prayed I would find joy in my life. That was my middle name and she hoped I learned to find and express the joy that God has in store for me.

For some reason that memory sticks out to me, maybe because I was kind of offended that I wasn’t living up to my name, maybe because I wasn’t old enough to understand the depth of joy, and maybe because I didn’t have an immediate answer to fixing this problem.

It’s been years since I received that rock and while I think I have found a lot more joy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about joy lately. Joy. A simple 3 letter word that is so difficult to wrap our minds and lives around sometimes. Some would say that joy is easy to find in the good times of life, but many of us fail to remember to be joyful even in the good. Most agree that it’s difficult to be joyful when we hit the rough patches of life.

Experts say that joy is key to making it through the difficulties we face. In order to be joyful always we must work at being joyful even during the ordinary parts of life and if we want to live a wholehearted life we must find joy.

When it comes to joy, there are two verses in the Bible that have always eluded me:

Be Joyful always.

Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of any kind, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 

For the longest time I just couldn’t understand why and how God could expect us to be joyful always, especially during our deepest pains and struggles. My ah-ha moment came when I realized that Joy cannot rest in happiness alone. We usually think one comes with the other. If we have happiness, we have joy. But joy and happiness aren’t interdependent. Happiness can come through good experiences and fade quickly when we hit hard times. Joy can still endure. If joy rests in happiness alone, the difficult times are going to be rough. I have learned that my circumstances cannot determine my joy.

My key to finding joy lately is gratitude. While happiness and joy are not interdependent, I believe that joy and gratitude are. You hear stories of people with heart wrenching sorrow in their lives and they somehow find joy. How? Through gratitude.

Joy is never a constant in our lives. Even in our happiest times, we can choose to not find joy. We can live in fear that these happy moments are so good that something bad is bound to happen soon. The key is finding gratitude in these situations. If joy is only for the good times, our joy is certainly going to dissolve when we hit the valleys of life. But I am led to believe that that kind of joy isn’t real joy, just an elated version of happiness. To be happy during difficult times is nearly impossible… to be happy during a trauma seems fake and avoiding what is really inside. But joy… joy is different. When we find joy through gratitude it gives us reason to wake up even when we don’t want to face the truth of what’s going on in our lives. Joy gives us reason to fight for the broken things in our lives or pick ourselves back up after our hearts have been shattered. Joy gives us reason to share our difficult stories. Joy gives us reason to take risks. Joy gives us reason to love deeply. Joy gives us reason to live like today is our last day.

But this can only be done if we find the gratitude in the situation.

It’s easy to forget about gratitude and in affect lose our joy. But it’s about choosing to be grateful and choosing joy. It means we don’t take what we have for granted, but we celebrate it- the big things and small things.

May you find the ability to be thankful wherever you find yourself today. And may you find the lasting joy that endures through happiness and hardship.image1 (1)

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