I had to ask myself today, “Do I have joy in my life?” Not happiness, which is a fickle friend, but that inner joy in my spirit. You know the joy that has absolutely nothing to do with our circumstances. My honest answer is “not as often as I should”, and some days, (especially lately, as our family is going through a trail), I have to admit, “not very often.” It is so easy to allow the mundane experiences of our lives, or the frustrating circumstances chase away our joy. But, if joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances, then how does that happen? I believe it is when we lose our gratitude. It’s easy to take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on our problems, especially if those around us are hurting. Or to simply lose patience with our dreams because they seem so slow in coming.
Even in the midst of hard situations, we can maintain a thankful heart. Sometimes we get stuck in the ‘thank-you-for” rut where we rattle off our tiny list, you know the same one every time. Mine includes, hubby, kids, grandkids, food I eat, house, cars and Church, or pretty close. That just shows we are either in a hurry, or can’t see past our nose. When we slow down and make the effort to be thankful, we can see so many things, people, places that touch our lives. A few examples: a babies smile, doesn’t even have to by your baby, any baby smiling, the smell of lilacs on a damp spring morning. Then there are those things that we really aren’t too thankful for. This category is hard for me, shoveling snow, giving the dog a bath, dealing with that one person who rubs me the wrong way. Yes, we need to be thankful for those things. God has a purpose and a plan for our lives, and part of that plan is for us to work hard, love people, be a witness at our jobs.
It seems like the last few months, my family has been under it. Most due to some poor choices of one family member and the rest either come along with the territory, or just because we have a real enemy. So though it’s been tough, I have still been able to find joy in the middle of it all. If I was a spiritual superhero, I could say I held onto my joy the whole time, but sadly I am not. I can say that I know right were to find it. Because in all truthfulness, despite what I said earlier, nothing can chase or steal our joy away. We lay it down, sometimes absentmindedly, like a spare pair of reading glasses. Psalms 16:11 “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand there are pleasured for evermore.” We find our joy in the presence of God. Simple really. Sometimes we willingly lay down our joy to trade it for fleeting happiness or satisfaction. Usually that comes out of willful sin, which includes harboring bitterness, and nursing un-forgiveness. We lay down our joy when we disobey God.
How do we hold on to our joy? By being thankful, a heart full of gratitude. When we keep our minds fixed on Jesus, His promises, His goodness, and remember those who have gone before us, we can keep that unspeakable joy in our lives. Hebrews 12:1-3 “therefor, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrances and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of he throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and love heart.”