This year, instead of setting traditional goals, I am examining and practicing a fruit of the spirit each month. I explain more here!
When I think about joy, the first thing that comes to mind is gratitude. I think gratitude is the “secret” to a joyful life, because the only possible outflow from gratitude is joy. When I am grateful, I am joyful. When I am grateful, I see the abundance in everything around me. I see that I have more than enough!
For the last few weeks, I have been keeping an impromptu gratitude journal. To be honest, while I am trying to embrace the whimsy of writing down whatever I happen to be most grateful for at the moment, sometimes it feels a bit aimless. There are so many HUGE things I have to be grateful for that I feel like I need to write all those down first! As in…
1) My health
1a) Health of husband
1b) Health of family
1c) Health of friends
1d) Health of cats
…and on and on. As a side note, the whimsy has led to some random recordings – why am I thinking about Free Cone Day in the middle of February?? (April 14, FYI!)
So, has cultivating gratitude helped me to be more joyful? Yes, I think so! However, even though many of the things I have written down are not materialistic, almost all of them are circumstantial, and I think that’s not telling the full story. Life Church’s current sermon series is called “God Never Said That,” and I happened to listen to the most recent one as I was mulling over all of these thoughts. In it, Craig debunks the myth that “God wants you happy.” The sermon is definitely worth listening to, but for our purposes, here’s the gist:
— God delights in our happiness, like any good father.
— However, He doesn’t want us to pursue happiness, He wants us to pursue Him.
— The world’s definition of happiness is: better possessions + peaceful circumstances + thrilling experiences + the right relationship + perfect appearances.
— God does not want us to be happy when our happiness is based only on the things of this world.
My husband brings me great joy. My cats bring me joy. Maine brings me joy. My bed brings me joy. But I believe that they bring me joy because they are a hint, a reflection, a reminder of the joy that is God’s love for me. For me, the most profound part of Craig’s sermon was his reminder that we need to lower our expectations of earth, because earth is not meant to be fully satisfying. Things here can bring us great joy, but they’re still only an echo.
A few more things I’m doing to cultivate joy:
— Letting positive, joyful people influence me instead of cynical or pessimistic people
— Being truly grateful not only for the good things in my life, but expressing my gratitude to the one who gave them to me
— Being present and ENJOYING the things, and especially people, He has given me. The more I tune in to the wonder of my life and the world around me, the more joyful I become!
Friends, out of every personality trait, I would wager that joy is the most intoxicating. People are downright intrigued by those who exude joy, because it’s something we all want more of. Be one of those people! Let your joy pour out of you!! In the meantime, I would love to hear: how do you cultivate a joyful life?