"Be joyful always." (1 Thess 5.16)
"Consider it pure joy when you face hard circumstances of any kind." (James 1:2)
Joy is not circumstantial happiness.
If we mistake the idea of 'joy' for 'happiness' then we run the risk of developing a deep bitterness. How can God expect me to be happy in the midst of finding out a friend lost her baby? When some of my deepest desires continues to be unfilled, God's asking me to be happy about that?
No, no, He's not. Having joy in these circumstances means having a trust and hope that everything will be alright, not because the situation will get better (it very well may not), but because we know that something else is coming-- that the Lord is good, and He works things together for the good for those who love Him. We know that "this too shall pass" and that God will indeed make this right, if not now, then in the Resurrection. Romans 12.12 says to be joyful in hope. Not in a way that we "hope" (or wish) something better will happen, but in having confidence that all things will be restored in the end because God has promised that to us. Some days it seems a long way off, but it's a real promise we can hang onto.
But that's not easy. Especially when you've just been blindsided by a circumstance that you couldn't predict and certainly didn't expect. At least that's how it is with me. Typically for a few days I'm pretty rattled and feel like giving in to the despair. I have a melancholy personality to begin with, so I know that I'm susceptible to falling fast into that which is not joy. Maybe you're the same way.
But the Scriptures encourage us to chose joy. To remind ourselves that this too shall be made right. To practice thankfulness for those things that will never be taken away from us. To lean into God, knowing that He is there, and by choosing to take refuge in Him as we walk through the circumstantial messes.
Cultivating Joy in OurselvesLike we said last week, this is not fruit of ourselves, but fruit of the Spirit. How do we get to the place where joy is a fruit it on our lives? Here are a few things that help me...
1. Meditate on this verse throughout the day: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4.8)
2. Practice gratitude. Slow down and give thanks for those blessings in life, no matter how small. By doing this, we're changing the subject matter on which our minds are dwelling and redirecting our gaze from ourselves to the Father.
3. Listen to music that speaks to your soul. Good music often captivates my emotions. When I'm not feeling joyful, I know there are some songs that I can listen to that help change my emotional disposition in a way that merely reading words on a page cannot.
Helping to Cultivate Joy in Our Children
1. Memorize Scripture together! Hiding Scripture in our children's hearts gives the Holy Spirit words to speak to those little hearts long after they are "little".
Get the printable files here.
One idea is to print off verses along with a picture of some sort that describes the verses, and then put them in a mini photo album that you can get at the dollar store. You could keep a copy in the car if your family does a lot of driving (or by their bed or by the toilet). By putting pictures with the verses, it gives non-readers a little way to get them started on the verse without your help.
2. Sing! Songwrite! Dance! Whatever your children are inclined towards. Just as music creates emotional responses in us, it does in our children as well. Helping kids write simple songs to God is a way that they can express their joy (re-joicing!).
3. Create a gratitude journal. Here's a page that you can print off that gives kids space to express one thing a day that they are thankful for.
Get the printable file here.