Fine shot of the jumping woman

We spend so much time searching for happiness. I’d be happy if only, or I’ll be happy when… You fill in the blank. It is an elusive goal in an endless quest. We can search for happiness and pursue it all we want, but it simply doesn’t last. This is because happiness is merely a transitory feeling, a fleeting emotion, a passing thought. It’s temporary, like any other mood.  It can’t sustain us and we can’t hold onto it. Joy, however, is something more. It’s deeper than that. Joy isn’t a feeling; it’s a choice. Happy or unhappy, we can still choose joy. It is ours to have in every moment, if only we will it for ourselves. We can choose to have joy in any circumstance, it just sometimes takes a great deal of willpower and courage to choose it. Our pursuit of happiness can only be satisfied by the commitment to joy. Happiness fails to satisfy while joy is full and rich and deep Joy is the true happiness that cannot be taken from us, lasting and meaningful happiness.

How do we choose joy and where do we find it?

1. God.

At its core, joy is found in Christ and our relationship with Him. What’s the number one thing to foster a good relationship? Communication. So pray, converse with God, and listen to what He’s saying to you. Spend time with God, set aside specific time for reading His word and for prayer. As you go about your daily life, make Him an intimate part of it by making your very life a prayer. He loves you immensely and desires that you know, love, and serve Him. He has a superabundance of grace just waiting for your request. So have a childlike faith that trusts your Heavenly Father to supply your needs. Love God and you will find joy.

2. Doing good.

Whether it’s small random acts of kindness or an intentional commitment to volunteer in your community, make doing good a habit. Give expecting nothing in return, not even a thank you. Be Christ to those you meet. You’ll be amazed by the joy it brings.

3. Relationships.

We humans are social beings. Seek out friendships with people who will bring you closer to God, who make you a better person. Foster your family relationships and mend those that are broken. Having a network of people that you love and care for and who love and care about you and who will hold you accountable is so important to maintaining joy.

4. Little things.

Find joy in small everyday things whether it’s a cup of coffee, the crunch of a leaf,  the beauty of nature, the smile of a baby, the smell of the ocean, the warmth of a fire, the touch of a light rain, or the hug of a friend. Take time to thank God for these little small moments of happiness and they can and will feed your spirit with joy.

Nonetheless, there are so many distractions that seek to rob us of our joy. I’ve outlined a few with some tidbits of advice on how to counteract them.  

1. Stress.

Stress is a very effective joy thief. The funny thing about stress is that it doesn’t just come from negative things but it can also stem from very positive, happy events. There’s one certain thing about growing up: the level and gravity of responsibilities grow right along with you. Between all the major life changes for good or ill and this rapid escalation of responsibility, it’s  easy to feel completely overwhelmed. Trust in God, go to Him with confidence that He will supply your needs. Also, be willing to accept help from friends and family. Trying to go it alone out of pride or stubbornness will only make matters worse.

2. Envy.   

One of the most pervasive joy robbers is a spirit of comparison. We want what another has and lose sight of what we have because we’re so caught up in what we lack. Jealousy becomes our demeanor and joy is nowhere to be found. Social media feeds this with the unending status updates on Joe’s perfect job, Sally’s amazing boyfriend or husband, Tim’s spiffy new sportscar, Larry and Jennie’s adorable and accomplished children, and so on and so forth. Whatever it is you want, someone else has it and has it in spades.The remedy for envy and dissatisfaction is to take stock of your own life. Are you the best you? Is there anything meaningful you need/want to change, especially something that’s interfering with your relationship with God? Setting goals and assessing our progress can give us a new set of eyes into how we’re succeeding where it matters, how we’re growing closer to God and deeper in holiness.

3. Downheartedness.

It’s very easy to allow small annoyances or real suffering to color our perspective. We are more aware of the troubles in our lives than the joys. The solution for this lies in recognizing our blessings and the ways God is working in our lives. One fantastic way to do this is through a prayer journal. A very basic way is by striving to see the positive, to discover the silver lining in a bad situation, to be a glass half full sort of person. Count your blessings and you may be surprised by how numerous they are.

4. Impatience.

The last joy snatcher is impatience. Whether you’re unhappy with your current state in life or simply anxious for warmer weather, impatience can make everything seem tedious. Figure out what you can do to change your circumstance, do that, and then ask God to take care of the rest. God’s time isn’t always ours. So you may be waiting a very long time, but waiting in joyful anticipation is infinitely better than waiting in indignant impatience.

Know this. God truly desires the best for you and joy is an integral part of the Christian life. Pursue true joy and make it your own. It’s not automatic and it takes a great deal of effort, but choosing joy is so worth it. Keep it your goal even when it’s more difficult and seems less than obtainable. Ask God to help you to hold real joy in your heart in every moment.

Here’s to a joy-filled 2015!!!