Joy is one of my very favorite words.
Joy is not the same thing as happy. Happy is usually the word we use to describe things EXTERNAL to us, like people or circumstances or things, that make us feel a certain way.
Joy comes from within.
I have come to think that it is the gift we receive when we acknowledge and accept who we are, WHOSE we are and what we’ve been given—when we begin to see ourselves and our lives the way God sees us. When we STOP looking to circumstances or our bank account or our marriage or our home or our job to make us feel a certain way. When we can settle into our own skin and truly believe that the life we have been given is the perfect one for our growth.
The word JOY comes from the Greek chara is closely related to charis, which means “grace” or “a gift.”
(My baby girl in the picture above? We named her Eleanor Grace for this very reason and boy has she been a gift!)
Joy is how we feel when we believe that all of this is a gift.
So what is taking your joy or your gift? I’ve come up with three things that I think are to blame.
- Our OWN thinking (yes indeedy)
- False Pleasure
- Unwillingness to sacrifice and/or suffer
Joy Stealer #1 – Our Own Thinking
We forget. We forget that ALL of this is a GIFT.
Being here is a gift.
This life is a gift. Clean drinking water is a gift. Puppy snuggles are a gift. A six year old covered in dirt and sand? A gift. The cold I’m coming down with after a crazy week of family and work stress? A gift that is making me rest. ALL OF IT.
When we forget, we (and our pesky brains) start focusing–and even searching–for all the negative stuff. And, if we start searching for all the negatives CAN WE EVER FIND THEM!! That’s why it’s so important that we redirect our thinking when we find ourselves in these situations. Shifting our focus towards the fact that all of this is a gift, that God created me and he loves me, that he sent his son Jesus and what a gift that is, and everything that happens to me is because he loves me and he is for me. Phew!!!
Every hard circumstance, all of it.
What’s amazing about joy, about the gift, is that the gift sometimes doesn’t even look like a gift! But, once we retrain our minds and take every thought captive, we can remind ourselves, no, this is a gift! This is for me!
It turns everything into a gift.
And that’s amazing.
When you reimagine and retrain your mind to see that everything is a gift, there’s no need to resent or hold a grudge and there’s EVERY reason to forgive! What we are doing is reorienting our thinking to what is TRUE.
What is true is you are a child of God–He created you, He loves you and all of this is for you.
Now, it’s all a gift and it’s all for you–even if you don’t recognize it. The problem is that when you don’t recognize this, you start to do some CrAzY stuff.
Let’s face it–sometimes life is hard, circumstances are hard, and relationships are hard. Can I get an Amen?!
Here’s the thing, though. So MUCH is hard that if you don’t keep retraining your thinking towards what is actually true, you will find yourself doing Joy Stealer #2–you will seek false pleasure.
Joy Stealer #2 – False Pleasure
Here’s what happens.
Life is hard. We want relief from ALL THE HARD and so, instead of reminding ourselves of what is actually true, we just say “Ah, I’ve just got to have relief,” and we seek relief wherever it can be found.
We seek it in food…
We seek it in drink…
We seek it in shopping…
We seek it through social media and zone out…
We seek it through pornography…
We seek it through addiction.
We seek it in a million ways and the relief is only temporary. And here’s the problem with this temporary relief–hang onto your hats here sisters—a lifetime of chasing temporary relief ends up giving us way more problems than the circumstance we are avoiding.
This is a big one.
I often ask myself, what am I missing out on when I choose the quick fix of false pleasure instead of the deep abiding joy of my real life with all its messy beauty?
Think of something hard that’s happened in your life. For example, I think about when my house burned down. It was easy to want to seek false pleasure. I just need a little hit of dopamine that will temporarily make me feel better instead of sitting in the discomfort of what is true.
When we seek false pleasure instead of staying present in our life, we are trading the joy of our actual life and seeing it for the gift that it is, for false pleasure.
Ugh. When we make a habit of doing this, what we get in return is so much worse than what were trying to escape! We end up with a weight problem, or a drinking problem, or a shopping problem, or a marriage problem, or a pornography problem, or just zone out. We exchange that false pleasure (which is temporary and comes with a high price) for the true joy of seeing everything as the gift that it is.
We escape the gift that our real life is trying to give us, because the thing is those hard things, that suffering, that thing that we’re trying to escape, that is the curriculum of our life! That’s the thing that’s going to help us grow and get to the next version of ourself.
True joy comes in recognizing the gift that is there in the hard things. We realize long-lasting peace, love, and joy by staying with what is real and true.
Joy Stealer #3 – Unwillingness To Sacrifice/Suffer
Ready for the third Joy Stealer?
It’s simply the unwillingness to suffer and sacrifice for your future self, for the greatest good, or for what is possible.
Let’s say we get to the point where we aren’t seeking false pleasure all the time. The next step is: Are you willing to actively seek areas where you can sacrifice yourself? This is the example that we have in Christ. He gives himself over to us for our redemption, for our salvation.
This is exactly the point. He becomes the gift. Are we willing to do what is possible to become the gift?
Are we willing to sacrifice, to suffer, to tame the desires of the flesh and instead seek out areas where we can grow and become who we are called to be?
What is it costing us not to?
What is it costing us, our family, and the world for us to not recognize this joy, this gift within us?
Joy Is Amazing–Just CHOOSE IT!!
So, what is stealing your joy, my friend?
Joy is amazing and incredible and deep. BUT, its not easy and that’s why so many people don’t choose it. Instead, many people will choose false pleasure or to stay in their negative thinking. So many of us aren’t willing to sacrifice and suffer.
That’s why you see so few people full of joy. That joy has come with a price that they were willing to pay–first because Jesus was willing to pay the price and second because we are willing to join him in his sacrifice .
It will take some willingness to endure discomfort and some acceptance of pain to stay present in our real lives.
But that’s where joy lives.
And that’s where the best version of you lives.
Joy is worth it. You are worth it.
Joy is deep and and satisfying and full of love.
It’s one of the greatest gifts we can accept from our Father.
Is false pleasure stealing your joy?
Maybe it’s time to take it back.