The Search for Joy

It’s almost too ironic: after a week when I’ve been very worried and stressed, Pastor Joel Tetreau preaches on anxiety and worry. After a difficult week when I’ve been particularly frustrated, disgruntled and sorry for myself, he teaches on Joy. Funny how that works!

But it’s definitely to my benefit. Like me, you may have heard before that JOY stands for “Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.” Simple, but true, and very hard to live. You may not have heard this (I’m quoting from the handout):

  • Joy is a by-product of “Living in Christ.” Sometimes Joy is “felt” as a gift from the Holy Spirit (Phil. 1:3, 5,10, Gal. 5:22, Ps. 4:7)
  • Joy is a tool for “Living in Christ.” (Sometimes Joy is not “felt” but determined based on the facts of our faith, not the feelings of our faith.)
I thought the second point was aimed right at me. I tend to focus  A LOT on my feelings, not on what I know to be true by faith. I tend to forget the John 13:17 principle I talked about some before, where right thinking leads to right doing, and then it’s followed by right feeling. 

“The crossroads for many believers is this. Satan has stolen their joy using the same technique he did on Adam and Eve. First, he built up “unfair expectations” toward God and others. Second, he tempted (and succeeded) Eve and then Adam in not being content. Notice the result when this happens: You loose Joy, You find Sin (or it finds you!)” 

The above quote really caught my attention. I’d definitely built up some unfair expectations of God and Brian, and felt let down and discontent as a result. And as I wrote on the side of my paper, according to Psalm 16:11, we don’t have any excuse for not being joyful. We like to tell ourselves that we can’t be joyful because of _______. Maybe our marital status, job, finances, health issues, etc. But Psalm 16:11 says: “You make known to me the path of life:  in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” If we are God’s children, we have God’s presence with us always! We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and God promises never to leave or forsake us. 

I made a lot of excuses for why I wasn’t joyful last weekend. In fact, even Sunday afternoon, I was back at it.  I’d written Brian an email the night before with all the things I’d wanted to express all week when I didn’t think he was listening, so we went to our complex’s pool after Sunday lunch for some couple’s time. Brian finally told me that he had a hard time wanting to listen to me because I’m “always negative about everything.” Despite the superlatives, there was some truth to the statement. I shot back: “Well, I had a really hard week! It’s easy for you to be positive! You get to leave and go to work every day, where you have friends and everyone likes you. I’m stuck here all day by myself with lots of dirty dishes and laundry!”

We had a good talk I think, and it clarified for me that I was just not being content with where God has me right now. Sometimes I feel stuck…not stuck as in I wish I were single, but stuck at home doing school until Brian gets home, fixing dinner, cleaning up, and going to bed, day after day after day. After all the frenzy of school where I actually had to go to campus, involvement with our college group, teaching a Bible study, wedding planning, the wedding, honeymoon, and move, this seems really boring! I’m ready for another adventure! 

But I think I’m beginning to see God’s plan for this time of inactivity. I got way too busy for a while there, and I was neglecting the most important thing: spending one on one time with God, really listening and learning and  worshiping. I think I’m “stuck” so that I can learn to be still and appreciate who God is

And so, this week I’m going to be looking for joy. I’m going to pay closer attention to the everyday things that God has blessed me with. Every day (hopefully) this week I’ll post something that brings me joy. I’m going to focus on the positives and delight in the simple things of life. 

Do you have joy? Often, seldom, or never? What’s keeping you from experiencing joy? What brings you joy?

  • How funny, I was just reading about joy in my devos this morning
    🙂 I was reading My Utmost for His Highest and he mentions that "The first thing that will hinder this joy is the subtle irritability caused by giving too much thought to our circumstances."
    I have found this to be so true! When my focus is on God I don't get caught up in the all the little gunk here and now and it is so much easier to keep track of my joy 🙂

  • All I can say is…you are not alone. I think this is something everyone can relate to on some level and I really appreciate you opening up your heart on your blog and sharing your struggles.

    When I was first married, I used to focus on all the ways Paul was "letting me down"–not living up to my "ideal" of what the perfect husband should be. Then one day I decided I would keep a journal of all the ways he WAS living up to my ideal. I purposefully wrote down at least one good and different thing each day…focusing on the things he was doing right instead of what he was doing wrong. Turns out he was doing a lot of things right! Whenever I was feeling let down, I would go through my list. Of course…I think it got lost in the move…sigh.

    Have you seen the movie or read the book, "The Ultimate Gift"? Great movie if you haven't–I used to own it, but I loaned it to someone and now I don't remember who has it…

    ANYWAY… in the book he talks about the gift of gratitude– he starts off every day by making a mental "golden list" of 10 things he is thankful for and it changes his whole outlook for the day. I did this exercise in a blog once a couple of years ago. I intended to write out ten things everyday I was thankful for and the goal was not to repeat any one of them exactly (I just looked and I had 90 posts…that was 900 different things I was thankful for!). It's a great way to put things into perspective!

    I think it is a great goal for you to write at least one joyful thing in your blog each day this week and I know it will be an encouragement to all of your readers. Thank you for sharing!

    I would also encourage you to look into possibly keeping a journal of things to be thankful for. Whenever you start to feel depressed, stop and focus on the blessings and write them down. Simple things like, "thank you for these dirty dishes…it means we have plenty of food to eat" or "thank you for this laundry…many people do not have more than one change of clothes" really help to keep things in perspective.

    Oh…and if you ever get bored…CALL ME! You'll have to hang out with me AND my kids, but we can think of some way to get you out of the house! 😀

  • Thanks for your answers on my blog. i'm definitely going to have to attempt curling my hair with a straight iron, since everyone is suggesting that.

    And thanks for the reminder about joy. Sometimes it gets so easy to focus on the negative and let that still our sense of joy.