“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves”
Science, different religions, and the Word of God all seem to agree on this one thing — joy is not the result of good circumstances, joy is a choice that begins in our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our lives (Proverbs 4:23).
If you read my #IChooseJoy Devotional and Word Study you will have hopefully learned some truth about how we can choose joy. Joy is something we have to be intentional about. It starts in our beliefs (the stuff that’s in our hearts and minds) then it manifests itself in our experiences.
Lasting joy isn’t found in our physical possessions or circumstances, home renovation projects, on sandy beaches, or in the latest technology. Eventually the walls get dirty and we have to paint again, our bodies will become tired and we’ll need another getaway, and in twelve months or so our phones will slow down again and we’ll have to upgrade for another $700 or more.
We choose joy but it can only come when we actually make room for joy. We make room for joy the same way we make room in our homes for new furniture, or the same way we make space in our budgets for vacations and the latest technology. When we bring the new furniture in, we have to carry the old stuff out. And when we upgrade the phone, we usually turn the old one in because we can’t use both two phones at the same time. They cannot co-exist in the same space.
In the same vein, if we want our lives to be full of joy we’ll have to get rid of some old stuff in order to make room for lasting joy. We do that by washing our minds with God’s word and replacing old thoughts with new thoughts.
Five ways we can discover and maintain our joy…
- Take inventory. Say good bye to guilt and shame. Is guilt and shame keeping you away from your Creator? Remaining in unbroken relationship with Jesus was a challenge for me. As I wrote in Day 1 of the devotional, guilt only serves to weigh us down and create a rift between us and Jesus. I remember feeling so guilty about all my mistakes that I avoided God (as if!). I couldn’t pray and I even stopped going to church. I was foolishly trying to hide from God. Guilt will do that to you. It will pushes you away from Jesus while conviction is actually supposed to get us to turn us back to Him. It took me some time to learn to let go of guilt but once I did my journey to joy started to gain momentum.
Is there guilt keeping you from Jesus? Right now is the perfect time to say good bye to guilt, receive the joy that comes when we confess our sins and unburden ourselves of guilt and shame. (see Hebrews 9:14 and John 1:29)
- Thanks-Living: Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Can I be honest? I had to learn to shut my complaining mouth. In the midst of my heartache I had to learn to make space for gratitude. I started by eliminating negative talk. Instead of complaining about my heartache or my situation, I began to dwell on what was right and began to thank God for all the things that were good and right. This attitude adjustment continually corrects my perspective. Steven Furtick recently said, “The access point to joy is not accumulation, but gratitude.” Joy starts when we begin to count our blessings.
What are some of the blessings you haven’t acknowledged in your life? Start counting them and count them often! (read any of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the churches while he was IN prison – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon—he never stopped counting his blessings. In fact, in his letter to the Philippians believers he encourages them to rejoice in spite of their suffering and anxiety, and to continue to look to Christ as the object of their faith and hope, and the source of their joy). When our eyes are focused on Jesus anything is possible; worship sessions sets prisoners free.
- Run heart checks. Often. A relative of mine needed to have a medical procedure on her heart; her heart was working too hard because of a childhood illness that had some lasting effects. She had been living with the effects for some time and only went to see her doctor because she was beginning to feel worse. Sounds familiar. Have you ever recognized something was wrong with you but you couldn’t put your finger on it or the source of it?
I have. I was once chatting it up with a friend about relationships and when I heard what I was saying on the subject I knew something was wrong. My words weren’t lining up with what I believe. My heart was revealing what was in my heart at the moment, and it was ugly. Enter heart check: I prayed and searched my heart and realized there were some old wounds that needed healing. The conversation exposed something that was sitting dormant for a while. I was also watching soaps and spending too much time reading social media posts and my thinking had been warped and needed to be realigned. What I was allowing in me was coming out of me and it wasn’t cute but I didn’t recognize it right away. When I finally did, I knew I needed spiritual heart surgery.
What do your words and thoughts reveal about the condition of your heart? Do you need healing for some old wounds you’re carrying? Left unchecked, those old wounds can really hurt you in your present and your future. What changes can you make to make sure your heart is healthy? If you’re going to guard your heart you have to give yourself time to heal and permission to say no to some movies and certain genres of music. You may have to unfollow or hide the social media accounts that contradict your core values, make you angry, or get you unnecessarily riled up. (See Mark 2:1-12 and Psalm 51:7-12)
- Maintain healthy relationships with healthy people. Social butterflies and people-pleasers may struggle the most here. I was one of those people-I wanted to remain friends with people I had known from different seasons of my life. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I didn’t want anyone to think that I was suddenly better than them because I decided to follow Jesus but I also knew some of my relationships didn’t benefit me and some negatively affected my emotional health. People who “dumped” on me or were constant complainers made my anxiety worse. I had to clean up my circle of friends especially when I was struggling with stress, anxiety, and heartache. In creating emotional and physical space from unhealthy relationships I was able to cultivate healthy relationships.
So go ahead, look around you, what kind of friends have you surrounded yourself with? Are they the kind of friends who will encourage you and bring you to Jesus when you’re feeling low or, do they only make matters worse? (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Abide. Clear out the clutter and let God fill all the spaces. I talked about this on Instagram on Good Friday. Jesus’ farewell to his disciples included some life altering instructions, “Abide in me and my joy will be complete in you”. Jesus would be leaving, how could they abide in him? Here’s a visual that helped me understand…a flower can only live outside of the soil it was born in when it is set in clean water. As the flower abides in the water the water is drawn up into the flowery through the stem. The longer the flower sits in water, the more water abides in the flower. I drew that picture in my bible as a reminder to stay connected to The One who controls everything when life, my thoughts, and my emotions feel completely out of control.
What do you do to handle those seasons when life squeezes you and you feel like you can’t breathe? What would change if you chose to abide in Him–His truth and His promises. (see John 16:33 and John 15:11). Ultimately, we are responsible for our own happiness and for our joy.
When we choose healthy relationships and meditating on truths that benefit us we choose joy. My heart healed and my joy was restored as I changes my perspective–as God became bigger, my problems became smaller. I know Jesus loves you enough to do the same for you.
Praying you all find ways to choose joy, create space for joy and fill your joy buckets. If you have additional suggestions on living a joyful life please share, I’d love to hear.
If you’re struggling with maintaining your joy, you may also enjoy this post about Bible Study and Devotionals.