Five Ways to Recapture Your Joy
If you ever want to see what joy looks like, watch the face of a small child as you first blow bubbles for them. You can see their happiness, fascination, and wonder, and the all-too-fleeting contentment they experience as the first few float up and away. Eyes (and probably, mouth) wide open. That pretty much sums up how most of us experience joy, too.
That is, until one by one, the bubbles pop as they hit obstacles or disintegrate with the passing of time. Both bubbles and joy seem to have an unbelievably short shelf-life, and so our attention is quickly drawn back to the ordinary and the mundane.
The thing about joy, though, is that it’s not supposed to be just a feeling. It’s meant to be a state of being when we are connected closely with God. The Bible says that it’s in His presence that we experience the fullness of joy (Ps 16:11). Now, I know we are not yet actually in his presence, so we cannot really have that full measure…not yet. But we do have the Holy Spirit living within us—right now. And He is not only the joy giver, but joy embodied. If we carry His presence, we have access to joy at all times.
When life is coming at you like a freight train, it’s hard to believe that, and even harder to know how to actually tap into the joy we are promised. As always, I’m here to say I haven’t gotten this all figured out. But I’m always in hot pursuit of a more beautiful life. So this is what I’ve learned/experienced/trying to implement in my own life:
1. Be present.
This is probably the most valuable lesson I’ve learned lately. Mindfulness is a popular topic right now out there in the secular world, and has been a core principle in Eastern mysticism for centuries.
But make no mistake, the Bible also teaches us the same basic thing. Being present means to live and experience life in the moment, without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Isaiah 43:18 tells us, “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” And Jesus himself instructs us in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) not to worry about our future. We are told to fix our eyes on Jesus and renew our minds so we think and act more like him.
While it is an important technique to regularly quiet ourselves down and meditate on his truths, “practicing the presence of God”, it is also necessary for us to be in the moment throughout the day. And to do so with an eye to look for the good things and overlook the bad ones. And when we see and experience the good stuff, we can intentionally soak it in. Take a snapshot of it in your mind and file it in your joy album. If you can actually take a few moments and write them down, even better.
2. Choose the right filter.
No matter what kind of eyesight you have, you put on a pair of glasses every day when you wake up. It’s the filter you see things through, and it colors how you see and experience life. It can totally be related to your current mood, but it’s so much more than that. Our prior life experiences create filters that we look through as we approach our current life experiences. As you can guess, many of our perspectives are warped and inaccurate.
Choosing joy isn’t merely choosing to be in a happy mood; it’s a decision to attempt to see life through God’s lenses.
3. In order to experience joy, you must be willing to experience the other emotions, too.
If you choose to numb out the challenging emotions—fear, sadness, grief, anger—you will be numb to joy also. We are designed to experience (and then process) all emotions because we are made in the image of God. He experiences all emotions and gives each of them its proper place. But for us, to whatever extent we are pushing our emotions downand using alcohol, drugs, television, relationships (whatever we use) to suppress them, we are also suppressing our ability to tap into true joy and happiness.
4. Be thankful (you knew this had to be in here).
Gratitude is not optional. Our happiness, and most certainly our joy, is dependent on it. We are instructed again and again throughout the scriptures to remember God’s goodness and give thanks. That’s not so God feels appreciated—He has no need of that, or of anything, for that matter. It is for our own good and wellbeing that we are to be thankful. Paul tells the Corinthians that the overflow of thanksgiving towards God sustains and renews them, that, because of it, “we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16) Keep a gratitude journal. Or at the very least, speak out loud to someone every day something you are thankful for.
5. Be on the lookout for beauty.
Beauty is absolutely key to recapturing your joy. Do you recognize what is beautiful? Can you think of something right now? Beauty exists for two reasons (in my opinion): to bring glory to God and to inspire joy in us. No matter how hard, how ugly, how evil things may be around us, there always, ALWAYS is beauty present. God sews it into the very fabric of life itself. Nature, art, music, literature. Children, the elderly, people of all colors, cultures, and persuasions. Compassion, love, mercy, kindness, generosity… Are you taking this in?
There is so much beauty to behold.
It’s everywhere and in everything around us. Open your eyes, your ears, your heart. Take it in. It’s there to bring you joy! It’s there to testify to the wonder and the glory of our Creator!
Precious friends, no matter who you are, where you are, and what is happening right now in your life, you can recapture your joy. God does not promise what He cannot deliver.
But we must be present and at home to open the door.
What brings you joy? If you’re brave enough, share something specific. Somebody out there needs to be inspired by what inspires you.
I’m just gonna start this off by saying that I’ve had the toughest day I’ve experienced in a while just after releasing this post. Isn’t that just the way? Isn’t that just the plan?
But I found myself (inwardly wracked with anxiety and worry) walking into Stop and Shop trying to soak in the beauty of the potted plants they had outside. True story. Sometimes we have to force feed ourselves what doesn’t seem to be palatable at the time. Fight for it, friends. I’ve fought through the rest of the day with the notion, “I WILL experience joy and the goodness of the Lord today!” It’s nearly 11:30 pm and I’m almost there. Don’t give up.
Michelle, thank you so much for the truth that you bring through your blogs and the transparency that you are willing to show to all of us.