JOY – What it is and what it isn’t

I thought as I embark on this one year study of JOY I should begin by defining exactly what I think joy is and what I think it isn’t.

Joy is not simply happiness.

Last week I mentioned that by joy I did “not mean “happiness”.  Joy and happiness are two very different things.  Happiness is external and momentary – it can come about from events, activities, moments shared with others; but joy is internal, accompanied by peace and contentment that remains solid even in the dark, troubling times of life.”   Happiness is an emotion and emotions are fleeting and can turn on a dime based on our circumstances and daily events.  Joy is something more.  Deeper.  It’s a state of being, a belief, a worldview of sorts.

Joy remains constant.

I think of joy in relation to the vows I said on my wedding day.  For better or worse, for richer or poorer, through sickness and in health, to have and to hold, till death do us part.  It’s something we have through all stages of life; good and bad.  We hold on to it in some respects, and desperately at times, to help us through those bad times in life.

I’m not there consistently.  Yet.  I tend to be circumstance driven.  If something really bad happens in my life I can be seen at the bottom of the pit thinking I’ll never dig my way back out of this.  As time passes I regain my normal moods and begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel and look back at the bottom of the pit and tell myself I’ll never fall that low again.  Until the next bad event hits.

Joy can be developed.

Joy has to be like a muscle.  I’m sure it can grow as we exercise use of it.  But figuring out how to do that is what lead me to this year long study to begin with.

In her book “One Thousand Gifts” writer Ann Voskamp shares how a friend dared her to search for and record one thousand gifts she’s been given.  As she goes along she begins to see how very mundane things we often take for granted are actual gifts we’ve been given.  We just have to open our eyes to see them.  Exercising the joy muscle.

Joy comes from the Lord.

The more we learn about the Lord the more our joy will increase.  Deepening our knowledge of the one who orchestrates and allows every event or situation in our lives will lead us to an increase of joy; even during times that aren’t pleasant or times we are downright brokenhearted.  (Remember is not an emotion!)

Not only does it come from the Lord but He commands it of us.  Rejoice in the Lord.  Philippians 3:1 – it’s a command.  Be joyful always.  1 Thess. 5:16 – command.  So, since it’s a command I figured I better get a good handle on it!

Joy is a choice.

So much of life is out of our control; but one thing we can always control is our reactions and behaviors.  As much as I’d like to use the excuses that maybe my pain level that day or how tired I am or how stressful things are control my reactions – they don’t.  I do.  I have the choice to look beyond the event of the moment to the bigger picture and chose to lean on the constant arm of joy.  There are times we won’t be able to see the bigger picture, after all, some things will happen to us and around us that just don’t make sense.  But still, we have the ability to place the event in its proper place and not let an off the cuff reaction at a time of anger and vulnerability be the thing that people remember us for or mark as our personality.

Joy is not based on our circumstance or other people.

Events in our life come and go, circumstances change.  Joy is something with you regardless of where you are in your life.  It’s what gives you the ability to rise above and out of painful situations.  We cannot base our joy on other people or expect them to be responsible for the level of joy in our hearts.  That’s placing too much responsibility on the shoulders of someone who will eventually let you down or possibly hurt you along the way.  After all, they’re human and imperfect just like you and me.  Couldn’t that lead to you eventually losing your joy?  That’s not what joy is about.  It’s not external – it’s internal.  So it’s with you no matter who is in your life.

 I want that!  I want to be able to rely on the joy to get me through the mess that makes up our lives.  I want consistency to my reactions that are no longer based on simple emotion.  Fleeting emotion.  I’m jumping in and going deeper!  Join me each Wednesday and we’ll dive in together!!