How do you cultivate joy in your life?
- You need to understand exactly what joy is and is not.
- You need to have your priorities straight.
- You need to try.
Understanding what Joy is and is not.
Joy is not happiness. Happiness is an emotion that you feel when times are good. Joy is a choice, and then it’s an emotion. Choosing joy when you’re happy is really easy. Choosing joy when you’re unhappy is really hard.
Full disclosure, this post is as much for me as any of you reading it, because the last six months have been really hard. And even the last couple of weeks, my whole family’s been sick. But we’re doing the best we can to have joy.
Hopefully, there are people and relationships in your life that make it easier for you to choose joy.
- Your spouse,
- your children,
- your work,
- your friends,
- your faith and your worship,
- your relationship with God himself,
- and seeing people come to faith.
Hopefully, those are all sources of joy for you. And hopefully, those also reflect your priorities. Getting your priorities straight is one part of being able to choose joy.
John Piper asked this question: what is the deepest root of your joy? Is it what God gives to you, or is it who God is for you?
You can apply that to any of your other relationships. If the source of your joy is what they give to you, what they bring to you, then you’re making it about you. You’re not making it about the other person. If the source of joy is who they are, then it’s right, then your priorities are straight.
Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer.” To rejoice means to have and express joy. So “rejoice in hope” means to have and to express joy because you have a hope for a better future. This is future-oriented. It’s not now-oriented. Your circumstance right now might be really hard. The next part of that says, “be patient in tribulation.” Or be patient in hard times. And be constantly in prayer.
James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” One purpose of hard times is to make us stronger. This is also future-framed because it’s looking towards when you’re complete… when you’re full, when you have developed this thing called steadfastness through the testing of your faith. Through the hard time that you’re having right now.
It’s hard now, it will be better later. It won’t be better just because you have relief from the hard time right now. It will be better because of the growth that is happening right now. So take joy in that growth.
To choose joy: just try. When times are hard:
- Take a deep breath (maybe a few deep breaths).
- Force yourself to smile. There are lots of physiological, neurological, and even hormonal benefits of just smiling.
- Pray (hopefully, that is something that you do).
- And choose joy.