As I started out the year, I got the strong sense that my word for the year was JOY. As I began to ponder what this would mean for me, I looked back and thought about my life to this point and where I am at now for my “joy meter”.
What is joy? I think joy can mean a lot of things to a lot of people; or put another way, it can be attained in very different ways. What brings me joy can be very different from the next person. A couple of years ago I had very little joy in my life after going through major shoulder surgery, followed by knee surgery and finally having my appendix removed all within a 9 month period. As a very active person and very much a “doer” I found myself house-bound, in pain and having to come to terms with my limitations. After weeks of being unable to do the things I loved, or even just a lot of everyday tasks, I found myself falling into the grips of depression. Joy was not a word I used to describe my day, week, month or year.
After a long period and some deep contemplation, I was faced with a choice that many of us face in life: to accept my situation, or to do something about it. Here comes the hard part, the “what to do”. I realized that I had to reset my expectations on myself and others. I had to find joy in different areas. After sitting down and attempting to write a list of what brings me joy, I found it quite difficult. This was a scary exercise and I was quite baffled as to why it was so hard when we are surrounded by so many joyful experiences. I concluded that it must be more complicated than simply choosing joyful things. There are so many reasons why once-joyful things are now considered too much work, or ‘spoiled’ for some reason. A major setback in life, whether it be health, a life choice or something just went horribly wrong can make us very hesitant to step out again and try new things. We can be stuck being overly cautious, to play it safe, to embrace mediocrity.
I found a lot of the reason I wasn’t able to embrace true joyfulness was due to the fact that I was constantly bombarded by the perfect lives and adventures portrayed by so many others. Social media and advertising is constantly giving us visuals about the best parts of everyone’s lives. Magazines and advertisements show a picture of what could be with digital editing to make a completely unrealistic, unattainable image of what we could never do or achieve. Social media is (for the most part) snips of the best of people’s lives: they chose what picture of their thousands to post for the world to see the highlights of their lives. This is in no way saying they are wrong in doing so, but to step back and realize that we are flooded by images of what could be and left with the question, “what are we doing?” or thinking that we could never do that, leave a sense of defeatism and low self-worth. When in this place it is extremely difficult to experience a lot of joy and can be left with embracing mediocrity as a way of life.
A joyful life takes effort and intentional action.
While staying at home and bingeing TV and movies is most appealing, I have determined that it does not bring me joy. When engaging with such activities, at the end I’m left with an emptiness, a dullness and at time frustrations with pointing out how unrealistic that was. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a lot of fun, but to me, it does not bring joy. I think that the core reason is that I didn’t do anything, I was not a part of it, I was simply a viewer of someone else’s story.
I have found when I do have a joyful experience, there are things in this world that try to suck it away from me. People, situations, schedules, traffic, weather, you name it, there are so many (in the big scheme) insignificant things in this world that don’t matter, that can change our mood, our perspective and ultimately the joy in our lives. Don’t let the things of this world rob you from the joy you deserve and are to experience. Let go of those things, turn them around in ways to bless.
For example, though this is extremely hard, on the road, if someone cuts you off or is in a hurry and it gets you all worked up, you can turn it around and let them go ahead of you. We can do this in a line up freely, but on the road, it can very quickly turn into a heated situation. I had this happen to me a couple months ago and I got so worked up about it, I fought it for 10 minutes and kept asking myself why it mattered so much about this person who got right up behind me and overtook me and then cut right back in front of me to make some kind of statement. Why was I letting this person ruin my day that was going so well up to that point? This is something I am working on; I am trying really hard to not let others dictate my mood, feelings and emotions for the negative. As someone told me long ago, put on a Teflon suit and let others’ negativity slide right on off you. We get to decide what we let into our lives and I choose to let others negative comments and actions slide off and only take what is good in this world into my life.
Worry about what could happen or all the things that can go wrong can paralyze us from getting out and experiencing life to its fullness.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10.
Sources of joy – Mind, Body, Spirit
Joy comes from you being a part of something: experiencing something first hand. To experience joy you need to (most of the time) be there – that means when your calendar is free, committing to something and showing up. It is too easy to say “I’m tired” (or I “could be tired that day”) and leave it open to see how you are feeling so you can stay in and watch TV. Some of my best joyful experiences have been when I wasn’t expecting it, but by just being there.
Many of us have been let down and disappointed by experiences of the past, but I need to constantly remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and be expectant for great things to happen. Sometimes they just do. Surround yourself with people that encourage and inspire you. Try new things and always be learning.
For my injuries, I have spent hundreds of hours in the gym building them back up and have had more setbacks than I can count. I simply refuse to remain where I am with the limitations from my surgeries, and finally, I am reaching a point when I’m not in constant discomfort and am beginning to see the fruit of all my labor. It is hard, it is inconvenient, but it has been totally worth it.
Our health, pain or injuries can really suck the joy out of our lives. I believe in miracles and healing and love hearing when God works in people’s lives; it is a real faith boost. I also believe that God has given us wisdom and a sound mind and a body that can heal itself at times. I find it hard hearing so many stories of people’s lives who accept their pain and discomfort and do not do a whole lot about it. In a world where we are surrounded by the quick fix, we hope that a visit to the chiropractor and a quick crack is going to magically solve our problems. Often it is more than that, it takes time – more than we want, discipline – more than we feel like and hard work – more than we think we are able.
God wants the best for us, but sometimes for us to learn what He is teaching us, it needs to be a journey. What we eat and put in our bodies can drastically change how we think and feel about ourselves. The saying “junk in, junk out” really does ring true.
God has called us. When we live the life he has called us to, there is true joy. Be it helping another person, serving in a ministry, sharing life with others, when we are obedient to God’s call it brings me so much joy. To know why you have been put on this earth, to live out and develop the gifts he has put in you: that brings me an abundance of true and lasting joy. I have done online spiritual gifts test, talked to pastors and am getting a good sense of what my gifts are and why I am here. When I pour out, God pours in and it brings me an abundance of joy. Don’t stay in a rut of mediocrity when there is a life of joy out there for you. Don’t let things of this world rob you from the joy that you have in your life. Live your life, because you only get one life to live.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:13
What is sucking the joy out of my life?
What is the source of my joy?
What can I do to create more opportunities to experience joy in my life?