I love writing about joy. It’s one of my favorite topics now that I have it. There were many times in my life when I did not. God has showed me a great deal about joy, and I hope it will be helpful to you.
First off, having joy and being happy are NOT the same. Having joy can make you feel happy, yes. But it is possible to have joy even in the midst of trial when you are unhappy. I hope that makes sense. Joy is constant. Joy is in your heart and is not dependent on your current situation.
When I was in college, I remember often feeling unhappy. When life’s milestones didn’t come fast enough or if I didn’t get what I wanted I would find myself disappointed and unhappy. I would think to myself, “Oh, when Ian and I get married, I’ll be happy.” After we were married, I kept looking for the next big thing. “When we have a baby, then, I’ll be happy.” Well, we had a baby and I still wanted more. Something was always missing. I kept going through life chasing the next thing that would make me happy. Then, and only then, I thought I could be happy. But, I was wrong.
I was not happy because I didn’t have joy. More specifically, I didn’t have joy in the Lord. The last few years have taught me to have joy, no matter what life throws at me.
God taught me something about joy soon after Ian got sick. When he was in the hospital, I thought I’d be happy when he went to rehab. When he went to rehab I thought I’d be happy when he came home. When he came home I thought I could only be happy when we figured out what was going to happen with his legs. I felt like I couldn’t enjoy life fully, like our lives would continue only after everything with Ian had been resolved. In some ways, our lives were on hold. We couldn’t be truly happy until we “moved on.” I kept thinking that we just needed to get through each new obstacle however we could. We were in “survival mode” unable to enjoy life. I was unhappy. I had no joy.
Then it hit me. God did not want me to live like that. Every day is a gift and am I to live it fully for HIM. I can choose to be unhappy, OR I can choose to be grateful. There is always SOMETHING to be grateful for. When I looked at it that way, it made so much sense. Joy is inside me. Joy is what others see in me. Joy comes from God and does not change. Thank you, LORD, for revealing this to me!
Since this realization, I have done my best to share my joy (that comes from God) with everyone around me. I have a grateful heart, always thankful for what God has blessed me with. See, my family has so much to be grateful for… our health, a roof over our heads, clothing on our backs, full bellies, peace, and unconditional love.
“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.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)
If any of you are struggling with this, I urge you to pray and change your attitude. PRAY for God to give you true joy in your heart. Joy will be your strength and it can change your life. I mean that truly. Having a joyful, grateful heart makes you new.