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Monday, January 22, 2018

How Do I Grow Joy?

As the years go by, I’m beginning to understand the concept of having true joy, even in the hardest and most painful times. Truly, joy comes from the condition of my heart. Am I remembering that I am a Daughter of the King of the Universe? Do I remember he loves me so much that he gave everything (and suffered in ways I cannot comprehend) for me, even his own life? I have also found that when I take my “hands off” of situations and give them over to the Lord, choosing to trust him fully...it is in that place where joy springs up in my heart. Joy comes in knowing he’s got it. And he’s got me.

Can we remember all of this when our world is a mess? When we are heartbroken? When we are suffering from sickness? Worse yet, what about when our spouse or our children (or any of our people) are suffering?

Happiness comes and goes with circumstances. Joy is not dependant on circumstances. It is an inner state of the heart. Joy is a choice. And choosing joy is not always easy. Actually, it is rarely easy. It is something we have to build a capacity for, like training to run a marathon. You can’t expect to do well in the race if you don’t train for it and build up your mileage.

Dr. James Wilder says joy is a relational word. Our joy comes from both our relationships with others and especially our relationship with God. Joy springs up in the knowing that someone is happy to see you, no matter what.

Who are those people in your life that are always happy to see you?

Do you believe God is always happy to see you? Why or why not?

What are some ways we can build a capacity (the ability to do, experience or understand something) for joy?

I read a book recently by Marcus Warner called, “How To Grow Joy,”(1) and these are some suggestions he had, along with some of my own thoughts:

  1. Remind yourself that God is happy to be with you at all times. He is happy to see us whether we are living in defeat, or walking victoriously. The result is that we can find joy in the presence of God regardless of our circumstances. Our joy is because of his love for us and because of who he is. God’s love and affection for us never changes. He is delighted to see us every time we come to him. That thought should bring us joy.

  2. Spend your time with people who are happy to see you, no matter what. Pray that God will bring those kind of people into your life. Pray he will bring people that you can share your heart with without fear of rejection. You won’t open your heart up to someone who doesn’t feel safe. Community is such a big key to joy. Jesus modeled this concept in the New Testament. His disciples were always around him, interacting with Jesus and building deep relationship.

  3. Ask God to show you what your passions are. In John Eldredge’s book “Wild At Heart,” he shares a quote he ran across that changed his life:
    “Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes your heart come alive. The world needs more people whose hearts have come alive.” Ask God to show you, and then to give you the courage to step into those passions and bring him glory through them. That, my friends, will bring joy.

  4. Rest. Schedule it or you won’t do it. We all need times of renewal and refreshment, or our joy will drain out quickly. Being exhausted is a joy-drainer for sure. Hebrews 4:11 says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. - Hebrews 4:9-11

  5. Healing from past wounds. For some of you, joy may feel dangerous. Joy may be connected to times in your life when it was taken away or ruined - a moment in your life where it was destroyed by a person, place, or thing. So now you don’t dare hope to find joy again. But smashing our joy is never God’s way (he is the giver of joy). Ask God to show you areas of bondage that you are carrying with you. Process them with someone you trust. Get in the Word of God and study truth, replacing those damaging thoughts and lies from your past with truth. God’s Word changes lives. I’ll say it again - God’s Word changes lives.

  6. Ask God to change your attitude. Often our attitude affects us much more deeply than we realize. Attitude is a powerful thing. “Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.” - John Maxwell
    A person who practices an attitude of gratitude to God will have much more joy and a right attitude versus someone who does not feel thankful. Feelings of thankfulness often lead to worship of God, which will bring joy. The Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances, not thanks for all circumstances (1 Thes. 5:18). Could we focus on all that we do have instead of all that we don’t? Some days I’m not so good at this, what about you? I’m so thankful our Father is a Dad of mercy and grace, and infinite patience. And when we mess up, he forgives and restores, and he’s always happy to see us.

Jesus is our greatest joy.
Can we look at some of the ways God has blessed us with his goodness? Can we focus on some wonderful truths that should fill us with joy?…

  1. We are children of the Most High God. We have been adopted, rescued, and justified by Jesus’ blood on the Cross. We who are IN Christ get to spend eternity with him. That brings joy.

  2. We’ve been given the Word of God for our comfort, healing, wisdom, strength and a daily reminder of his great love for us. And... it say how this story ends - we win! JOY!

  3. We have the Holy Spirit inside of us. The same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in us (Romans 8:11). Joy!

God is the giver of joy...it resides with him. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Neh. 8:10). Spending time with the Lord brings joy. You could spend time with Him in prayer, reading the Word, worship music, taking a walk, just being quiet…
Your level of joy is directly related to how much time you spend with Him in various ways.

We may be tempted to fake our joy to others (or even to convince ourselves we are okay). “ But fake joy doesn’t sustain you through the desert.” - Suze Fair

We can even have joy in our trials. “Our joy is often buried in our suffering.” - Suze Fair
* A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. - John 16:21-22

God is writing a bigger story than we could ever imagine. And it’s okay to cry out to God our lament. It’s okay for the suffering and heartache we feel to be mixed into the joy (he was a suffering Savior, but he also had great joy). “It’s okay to have a bad day. You still get to be God’s girl.” - Suze Fair

A day is coming when there will be no more questions. A day when we will forget all this pain and suffering here on earth. A day when our questions are gone and our joy will be complete (John 15:11).

If you have a chance, listen to this song (below) written and sung by Rachel Chan (daughter of Francis Chan). It is simple, and yet profound…

Song: “Even Here” by Rachel Chan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeaLwzZeZcs

What would your “blank” be?

Even here _______________________________________ I’ll bring you joy. - Jesus
(You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. - Psalm 16:11)

Would your blank be…? (a broken marriage, a sick child, the death a someone you love, financial difficulty, betrayal,
cancer, infertility, struggle with addictions...etc.)

Only Jesus can bring joy in, through, and during the heartache and pain. And someday soon... we will see what he can see (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. - James 1:2-4

So hard, but so true. It may feel impossible even. But nothing is impossible with God (Jeremiah 32:27).

I’m praying for the miracle of joy to spring up in your hearts and minds as you continue to seek Him.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. - Psalm 27:13-14

Sources:
1). “How To Grow Joy” by Marcus Warner. Deeper Walk International. Westfield, Indiana; 2011.
2). Thank you to my friend Suze Fair.

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If you are an imperfect wife, mom, daughter, or friend, struggling to stay focused on God in the craziness and find joy in the heartache, then we have something in common. I am a recovering perfectionist and daughter of the King, slowly learning to fully trust the One who sees me just as I am, and is already pleased. I’m so glad you are here.

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