"Joy" 8"x8" Acrylic on Cradled Wood Panel. See it here
As we enter the Holiday season I am thinking about Joy. Earlier this year in my blog “Choose Joy” I wrote about joy vs. happiness, how we can choose to stop traveling down negative train of thought and we can choose to focus on God’s Attributes rather than our circumstances.
But how do we sustain joy throughout our days and year?
My painting “Joy” is about the gift of Jesus bringing us true joy. This winter scene, reminds me of Christmas in the midwest and I have loved thinking of snow while I’m in Florida painting this scene. The image is a reminder that in the midst of the busy holiday season there is the true joy only Christ can bring.
Happiness is often dependent on what is going on around us but joy is rooted in who God is and not our circumstances. We can have a quiet, content confidence in Him that sustains us through all life's ups and downs.
How do we manifest that joy consistently in our lives? It certainly is not by purchasing more and more gifts or holiday decorations (even though I love all the twinkling lights).
I have had more consistent joy over the past year and I have found it’s the result of three key things: more time with God, intentional gratitude and service.
Time in the Word
Are you good with plants? If my mom is reading this at least one of you said yes! I do not have a green thumb and struggle with having thriving plants in my home. I either under water or over water. I’ll forget about the plants for a while and then think “Oh! I forgot to water it! I better do that!” Then I soak it way too much that the plant can’t absorb what I’m giving it.
Plants need to absorb the right amount of water consistently over time in order to thrive. A master gardener seems to know just what each plant needs and can adjust for what may be going on in the plant’s environment.
We are the same way when it comes to the Word of God. I've had times in my life where I was not reading the Bible consistently and then some days I’d read large chunks just to “catch up” but I really wouldn’t think of how to apply what I had just read and didn’t absorb it. Then I realized I have a master gardener who wants to nurture me. Instead of thinking of developing a discipline to read the Bible consistently, I now think of it as the discipline of spending time with the Lord and his word and letting it soak in at the beginning of each day so I can thrive and grow. Time with my Master Gardner who wants to know and nurture me.
We can sustain joy by spending more time with the source of joy. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians chapter 5 is joy. If the Holy Spirit is giving us joy, we have to spend time with Him and that comes by reading the Bible, praying and listening. We can also listen to praise songs and hymns as we align with the Lord and worship him. When we spend most of our time on our own pursuits or concerns then we aren’t being filled up enough to maintain consistent joy.
The other thing that helps me sustain joy is by practicing gratitude. The word practice is intentional here. When we choose to find things we can be thankful for, even if they are minor, our attitude shifts and we get realigned to receive joy. I do this by intentionally thanking God for things when I’m writing in my journal.
When I was a counselor I would have clients keep a small notebook by their beds and write down 5 things they are thankful for before they went to bed so that they could begin resting with a positive mindset. You end up writing down major and minor things: things in your life, in nature and the world. You also end up seeing the world differently and appreciating those things in your life that you are thankful for. As I've practiced gratitude, I've even become thankful for the hardships that allow me to grow closer to God and help me become the person he's created me to be.
Serving God and others bring us true joy as we refocus ourselves on the purpose and meaning of life. Sounds simple but so much stuff gets in the way as we walk through this life and go through difficult seasons. But Jesus came so we could have joy. And the key is our obedience to God and serving others. Here is what He said:
“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:11-13
Intentionally saying yes to an opportunity to serve others in the community or your family is an act of obedience. When I serve others I'm blessed by it in unexpected ways as it shifts my focus and increases my capacity to love others.
I’m hoping you experience complete Joy from Jesus this Holiday season and throughout the year! Spend time with Him, practice gratitude and find new ways to serve others.