The Struggle with Joy and Where to Find It

 

Joy is not natural for me. And I've concluded that that is totally okay. I don't bounce around or have a smile constantly glued to my face, but that wasn't an easy conclusion to come to. 

I opened up about this to a friend. I told her that my lack of natural joy is one of my least favorite parts of myself and that it is something I want to work on in 2017. She said "Okay, but don't just do that because that's what you think you should do. Or what you think the world wants you do to. Don't change who you are."

And that hit me hard. 

The reason I wanted to be joyful was not because I wanted to do the things that brought me joy. I didn’t want to be joyful because it is what God calls me to be. I wanted to be joyful because I thought it would make me more friends, get me more likes on Instagram, and make me happier. I wanted an instant solution to my lack of joy, not a process. I didn’t want to have to do the work.

But what I have learned, which is something I'm sure I was taught in Sunday school, is that doing things for others brings me joy. 

I sent out gifts on September 24 to some internet friends. I bought bagels for my office on January 13. I began to notice that the more I did for others, the more joy I felt. The less scrolling on Instagram, and the more I dwelled on putting good into the world, the more I smiled. So on January 23 I took a big step towards making that a daily part of my life. I launched a little project called “In This Box,” all about loving people and showing up. People can nominate friends and love ones to receive a box full of gifts and love, then one or two people are chosen. I wanted to make sure that other people can both give love and feel love.

This is in no way me trying to brag on myself, but I couldn't stop smiling on each of these days. I had energy on each of these days. My desire to make others happy internally gave me the feelings I had been desiring. 

I am working on ways to bring joy into my life, not because I want to change myself, but because it’s who God calls me to be.

Philemon 1:7: “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”

Romans 14:7: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Especially in our tumultuous world right now, bringing joy to others and ourselves is our calling. Being an advocate is our calling. The constant waves of stories, opinions, and articles on social media can make us feel like we are being tossed back and forth in deep water, not knowing where to go. But I think in times like this, showing up for each other is how we are going to feel like there is hope and joy, even in such a time as this. 

So think of ways to love the people around you. Whether that is a co-worker, friend, spouse, or stranger.

Here are 10 ways to get started:

  1. Buy someone’s coffee behind you at starbucks or your favorite local coffee shop

  2. Leave a note taped somewhere in public

  3. Clean an area of your home for your roommate or spouse

  4. Buy someone a little gift

  5. Send a note to a friend across the country

  6. Text your mom or dad and tell them why you love them

  7. Invite a friend out to an event

  8. Ask someone how you can be there for them

  9. See how you can get involved in church or community and volunteer

  10. Buy food or snacks for your office

I don’t think I will ever fit the world’s definition of what joy looks like. But what I will do is constantly pursue the joy that God calls me to have in my life. I will look for ways to serve others, take care of myself, and make His name known.