I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve prayed for joy for at least ten years, yet I’m still processing the concept.
During a particularly down day a few months ago my Dad told me, “Well, Baby Doll, the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I have a very sweet Daddy, but at that moment his words felt hollow. I bit my tongue really hard to keep the snide remark from bursting out.
Of course joy comes from the Creator of joy–but how do I access joy? How do I push through the crap of life to grab hold of it? What is it, really? Happiness? Something deeper? Is it like peace or hope? Does it always include laughter?
After ten plus years of thinking and praying about joy, I’m still not sure I get it. But I have figured out a few things:
- Joy can be attached to circumstances
- Joy isn’t only from circumstances
- Joy can be a choice
- Joy can be a supernatural gift
- Choosing to be grateful brings joy
- Choosing to be hopeful, to trust in Someone bigger than I, supports joy
- Worry, fear, doubt, anger are enemies of joy
- Taking a walk and eeling the sunshine on my face brings me joy
- Bright colored flowers are my joy language
- The stillness of a moon-lit night seeps joy into my soul
- Physical well-being can support joy
- You can be joyful without physical well-being
- Loving people bring me joy
- I can find joy when I’m alone
- A bubbling stream reminds me of joy
- Grabbing hold of the simple pleasures of life supports joy
The list could go on forever, and I still wouldn’t define joy. But this I know. Soon after I asked God for joy He asked me to trust Him through the next season of my life which He assured me would include a lot of CRAP.
It wasn’t exactly the answer I wanted.
And the crap of life came. During that period sometimes I had joy, and sometimes I didn’t. But while I recognize that joy can be easier to recognize in the easy, happy times, it can also be found in the bad.
In the last few years of the trying season I took advice from the book, One Thousand Gifts, and recorded gratitude.
When negativity was especially tangible (or joy especially accessible), I’d grab colored sharpies and write on the basement walls everything I could think of to be grateful for. I’d remember that every good gift comes from the One who created the good gifts. And I would remind myself that He cares, and I am loved and noticed.
This week I hit #900 on that gratitude wall. It lists everything from statements like, “The boys did their chores!” to “petals making a fairy carpet on sidewalk” to “Everyone together at Dairy Queen!”
Read with a discerning eye you can chronicle the joy I’ve found in the weight loss journey–comments like, “learning to walk in the neighborhood by myself” or “I lost 20 pounds” or “Jerry said I’m ‘stunning!'”
Maybe the biggest thing I’m learning is how all-encompassing joy is. Joy comes from a million different places, but has One source, for every good gift comes from the Giver. The emotion of joy is more easily grasped when I choose joy in my mind, spirit, and body. It is supported by how I take care of my mind (paying attention to the thoughts I deal on), my spirit (connecting with God), and my body (the foods I eat, how much movement is in my day).
And finally, while I have some responsibility for my joy, it is always, always, always a gift from Love.