In a recent conversation with a Christian friend, he shared how several unexpected killjoys had sprung up in his life and dragged him down to a dark place. Since then, my friend has struggled to find joy in his life.
What about you? Are you finding it hard to be joyful in life?
The reality is, we could all use more joy in our lives. This leads me to share with you the first of 5 steps to living a more joyful life.
The first step is to seek joy from God. Joy is a gift from God and it doesn't come from people or objects in the world. You might get temporary relief or happiness. But the joy the Bible speaks of is so much more. As we read in the Bible, joy has to do with a deep state of gladness, cheer, and contentment. In the Lexham Bible Dictionary, "joy" is "closely related to gladness and happiness, although joy is more a state of being than an emotion; a result of choice."
In Psalm 16:11, David declared that in the presence of God that there is "fullness of joy." In Nehemiah 8:10, we read that we find strength in "the joy of the Lord." In Galatians 5:22, Paul lists "joy" as a byproduct of the Holy Spirit.
If you want more joy in life — look no further than to God himself.
The second step is to acknowledge and cherish the eternal blessings you have as a child of God:
You are forgiven and have peace in Christ – "But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near" (Ephesians 2:13-17).
You are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit – "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).
You have a living hope in Christ – "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).
The third step is bringing balance into your life. You've heard the saying, don't sweat the small stuff. It's next to impossible to appreciate the joy you have as a Christian if you live a hurried-up life filled with stress. In the book of Philippians, Paul writes, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (4:6-7).
We can't overlook that Paul wrote the words "don't be anxious" while in prison. Despite the various trials and the ups and downs, Paul still found joy amid some of his darkest hours. That, my friend, is joy!
It would be great that every time you feel worried or anxious, you simply pray for it to go away, and just like that, it's gone! But, as you very well know, that's not reality. We may not like it, but it's in hardships and feeling depressed that God's joy is made so much more real to us.
So, offer up prayers of thanksgiving to help eliminate any worry or stress that might be preventing you from living a life of joy.
The fourth step involves setting boundaries with certain people who suck the joy out of you. Setting boundaries is a hard thing to implement for anyone. Starting with the fact that no one likes confrontation. And secondly, most of the "joy suckers" in our lives are people we have no choice but to be around. They can be a family member, a co-worker, or some other person in your life.
So, the obvious thing is not to overreact and pull away from everybody. What you want to do is assess your relationships and determine who is the most self-centered, critical, argumentative, and who tends to push your buttons. In a nutshell, who leaves you feeling drained and discouraged most of the time?
Once you've realized who the "joy suckers" are, the next challenge is to draw the necessary boundaries to protect you from allowing this person to steal your joy. As mentioned in the first step, joy is a choice. You may not always have a choice who you are around. But you do have a choice how you interact with them and they with you. So, make sure you bathe your relationships in prayer and seek wise counsel before setting certain boundaries.
The fifth step is to enjoy life today!
It's easy to take for granted what we have in our lives. I'll admit that when I get impatient with people or with work-related stuff, I can miss out on enjoying life. Just the other night, I told my wife how I needed not to lose sight of enjoying the simple moments in life. Whether it be throwing the football with one of my kids or sipping a cup of coffee with a friend, I need to be more sensitive and aware of counting my blessings every day.
How about you? What are some blessings you've received from God that you need to appreciate more?
As you seek to implement these five steps to achieving a more joyful life, seek to add the prayer from Paul below to enrich your motivation.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13
Jason Jimenez is president of STAND STRONG Ministries, a faculty member at Summit Ministries, and the author of Challenging Conversations: A Practical Guide to Discuss Controversial Topics in the Church. For more info, check out www.standstrongministries.org.