So maybe you made a New Year's resolution back in January to have a better attitude, to snap less often at your kids, to exhibit less road rage, or to complain less.
How are you doing on those?
Now, none of those were specific resolutions of mine for the year because I picked one word to focus on like I always do. But that doesn't mean those aren't things most of us (myself included, except for the kids part) could stand to work on.
But how do we do that?
Well, friends, I'd like to suggest that those behavioral differences could come if we would first make some heart changes. Namely, if we focused on living more joyful lives. If we lived with greater joy, we wouldn't complain as much. We wouldn't be so quick to snap at others. We would have better attitudes.
So are you with me? Are you willing to lean into joy in the hopes that both your heart and your behavior might experience a little change for the better?
WHAT JOY IS
Let's start at square one. What is joy, anyway?
Unlike happiness, joy is not based on circumstances. Happiness is more of an outward expression of feelings of elation or excitement, while joy is more of an inward feeling.
Further, happiness is usually a temporary feeling based on outward experiences, while joy is a more stable, lasting feeling resulting from inward circumstances.
Happiness is external. It's based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone.
...Happiness is future oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone else's basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness.
...But happiness is not joy because joy is not external, it can't be bought and it is not conditional on someone else's behavior. In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. - Sandra L. Brown
Joy isn't ignorant optimism or just looking for the best in things. True joy acknowledges the bad, the difficult, the hurt, but knows that's not the whole story.
Living with joy means having an eyes-wide-open view of the world and our lives. It's not blind to what's going on -- either to us individually or in the world at large. Rather, it takes them in as pieces of a bigger puzzle, seeing that there is more to the story than we could ever know, and placing our state of mind and emotions separate from our circumstances.
WHERE JOY COMES FROM
Like faith, joy comes from believing in what we cannot see.
Our joy is found in knowing that God's got it all under control, knowing He's with us, helping us. I, for one, find it incredibly comforting to know that I'm not alone and that I'm not responsible for working everything out! I can rest assured knowing my Heavenly Father is in control and I don't have to be (phew!).
Joy also comes from knowing God loves you and has abundantly blessed you with good things, even if you've also been given challenges and hardship-- seeing both and choosing to believe you're blessed and taken care of, that you can give thanks even in the hard times.
Starting a business is hard, and it comes with its fair share of obstacles and challenges. But it has also come with so much joy, and I wouldn't trade that for the world! When I start getting frustrated with the technical side or the trial-and-error approach to figuring out marketing tactics, I remember that I get to do what I love and I'm building a business to help other women live joyfully, simply, and intentionally, to live lives they love!
WHAT JOY MEANS TO YOU
So what does joy mean to you? What does it look like in your life right now?
Well, friend, I don't know your story, and I don't know where you're at right now. But I do know a few things about how joy could impact your life and mine.
Gratitude. Simple gratitude. By adopting an attitude of gratitude, we're automatically choosing to focus on the good things that exist in the midst of the challenging things. Of course, it doesn't take away the challenges, but it reminds us that there is good in the world and good in our lives.
Joy means choosing to focus on the good. I realized somewhat recently how often I complain about the difficult things in my life when my friends ask me how I'm doing. I thought I was just being honest, and I was actually proud I was willing to tell them more than the perfunctory "I'm fine." But I want to go beyond sharing just the negative, hard stuff. I don't want my times with them filled with only negative talk.
So I've committed to sharing the good things with them. Not in a fake way, and not to the exclusion of the hard things I need to talk about or process or request prayer for. But first and foremost, I want to be a light, a person of joy, a person who ushers in grace and truth and encouragement. And that means talking about the good things, reminding others that there are good things. Because it's only by talking about the good things, only by sharing our joy, that it's really complete. And it's only in sharing the joy that we get the opportunity to bring joy to others.
What does joy mean to you? What does it look like in your current circumstances? I'd love to hear from you in the comments, or you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!