I like joy better than happiness. The root word for happiness is happens. Something good has to happen for us to be happy. Well, we don’t have continual good happening every second of our lives, so we can’t have continual happiness. Joy, on the other hand, is not dependent on circumstances. We can have it in spite of circumstances. It is a deep down contentedness that has, at its core, the thought that everything is going to work out. Here is the way to find joy:
1. Know that true joy is found only in God. It may be hard to believe for some, but it is totally true. People and life scenarios will eventually let you down, but God never does. The Bible says in Psalm 28:7a (NLT), “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy…” And Jesus says in John 10:10b (NIV), “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The Greek word for “full” in this verse means superabundant. Basically this means the best life possible on this Earth.
Surrendering your life to God through His son Jesus Christ brings peace, fulfillment and joy like nothing else can offer. As a matter of a fact, everything gets better in life because, as we follow Jesus by reading the word and applying it to our lives, our relationships everywhere start to improve. Even in the toughest times you will find Jesus and His word bringing you direction and peace! His ways are best and He will never lead you astray, but the key is deciding that you really do want to follow Him!
2. Decide you want to have joy in your life. In Galatians 5:22 (NIV), the Bible shows us that one of the gifts God wants to give us is joy, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” Joy is in that gift list. Here is a question about gifts: When does a gift become yours? When you reach out to receive it! You can decide you don’t want it, walk away from the gift giver and never open the gift. That sounds terrible doesn’t it? To walk away from a gift giver at Christmas robs the receiver of what they would have had and the giver of the joy of giving. God delights to give you joy, but you have to decide you want it and say, “Okay Lord, I open my heart to this joy you have for me.”
When you choose Jesus and the path He has for you, you are choosing joy, but you must also choose to walk that path. Choosing Jesus means surrendering to His ways, which are best. The Bible is God’s love letter to us. Jesus is God, and the honest to goodness truth is that we must take personal responsibility for our choice. Do I want Him? Will I choose to follow His way? The Bible shows our personal choice in Jeremiah 17:5-8: 5 This is what the Lord says: “A curse is placed on those who trust other people, who depend on humans for strength, who have stopped trusting the Lord. 6 They are like a bush in a desert that grows in a land where no one lives, a hot and dry land with bad soil. They don’t know about the good things God can give. 7 But the person who trusts in the Lord will be blessed. The Lord will show him that he can be trusted. 8 He will be strong, like a tree planted near water that sends its roots by a stream. It is not afraid when the days are hot; its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year when no rain comes; it always produces fruit. (NCV)
When we choose Jesus, who is God, and choose to follow His ways, our days and our lives are much more joy-filled.
3. Discipline yourself to speak positive words in life. The biggest part of following Jesus is an obedience to His word, the Bible. God tells us He will help us, but I like to say that it takes willpower: our will and His power. Are you willing to go His way? If so, these things are key:
A. Discipline yourself to see the good in life and think good thoughts.
Philippians 4:8-9: 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (NLT)
B. Be thankful to God and others out loud, not just in your head:
1 Thessalonians 5:18: Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (NLT)
Isaiah 63:7: I will tell of the Lord’s unfailing love. I will praise the Lord for all he has done. I will rejoice in his great goodness to Israel, which he has granted according to his mercy and love. (NLT)
It is true that it takes some work and personal discipline to refocus our thoughts and words in a positive direction, because it is also true that there are hard times in life. Here is why we can be positive even in those times, because in every difficult circumstance there are many wonderful things around us to be thankful for. And it is also true that we have the hope of good things coming our way again as we trust in the Lord and believe in the hope of heaven where there is no pain, sorrow, death or tears. This is why Jesus said in John 16:33 (NLT), “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
If we choose Jesus and His path, then we are choosing joy because He is the path to the best life possible on this earth and eternal life in heaven.