*Note*: The following was written a few weeks before high school graduation…
A typical morning:
Hit the alarm clock.
Five minutes pass.
You hit it again.
Set it for three more minutes. You aren’t getting up yet.
You can handle a cold breakfast if it means three more minutes of “sleep”.
Well really it’s three minutes of a mind racing with thoughts about the day.
*DOOP DEE DOOP DEE DOOP*
HOW ARE THREE MINUTES UP ALREADY??
Throw on a pair of athletic shirts and a tee-shirt. Yeah sure, that goes together.
Bound down the stairs. Shovel down breakfast. Brush teeth.
Put on chacos. Grab keys and coffee. CANNOT forget that coffee.
And thus…the day begins.
During school, I go through my morning routine like a zombie. Nothing particularly exciting happens. I run on autopilot. And caffeine. Where’s the excitement for life? Where’s the mentality in Christianity these days that tells you to “live each day like it’s your last”? “Live life like an adventure!!” “Love your life and live it to the fullest!” Something is missing from my morning routine that God invented to keep us going. And when I say going, I do not just mean physically. It is so easy to get caught up in the groove of life and completely miss this key element God gave us.
What’s missing is joy. JOY. Yes, that’s right- I am supposed to have joy at 7AM. Whaaaat? You may find yourself wondering how you are supposed to wake up joyful when you got 5 hours of sleep last night, not enough coffee this morning, and have a boatload of work to be done all day long ahead of you.
A mistake we often all make is reserving the word “joy” for only times of triumph and excitement in our lives. It doesn’t really apply anywhere else unless someone were to say something to you like this:
J O Y IS NOT AN E M O T I O N, BUT A L I F E S T Y L E.
Everyday is a triumph. Everyday is worth getting excited about. This is because God made you to live it for a reason. For a purpose. Out of all of eternity, God chose YOU to live on THIS DAY, at this time, and in this period of history. It was intentional.
So make it count. Make it something BEAUTIFUL.
See, if we would stop looking at days as bridges BETWEEN joyful events, and look at them as the joyful events themselves, our perception of them would change. And as a result, our actual days would change too.
It is so easy to just live for the joyful moments. We like to put everything else on the back-burner and focus on one single great thing. For example, graduation for me is coming up. It is really easy to just think about that as my motivation to “make it through” these last few days before it’s finally here. But the issue with that is that my mind ultimately starts seeing those days as a waste. Like they don’t matter.
Don’t waste your days. This is limiting your joy. As Christ followers, we aren’t called to limit anything good. We want to constantly radiate joy to others all the time.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8
Here is a simple way to remember how to do that:
To ENJOY your life, you need to live IN JOY.
Not FOR joy. Living FOR joy means you are only living in WAIT for the next joyful event.
And joyful moments are fleeting. The time till they arrive feels like forever, but the duration is like blinking. They fade away like the sun in the evening and all of a sudden we are back in the dark waiting period for the next “joyful thing”. But what if we USED that time? What if that “waiting period” was no longer a waiting period? What if we found joy in EVERY day? Not just the sunny ones spent on a beach or the sparkly ones spent on a stage.
Now you may be wondering…how are we supposed to have joy when life is going straight up AWFUL? How is that even possible? Yeah, joy is easy when all is well in your world. However, it’s the rough patches that present a road block to this so called “constant joy”. That’s asking too much.
Or is it?
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is this one:
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”- Nehemiah 8:10
It is extremely important to realize that joy, when built on loving Jesus and acknowledging the gifts The Lord blesses us with, is a powerful tool. If we truly use it each day to smile brighter, love wider, and stay a fighter, then joy becomes our STRENGTH. And when something becomes your strength, it is the equivalent of your foundation. So here’s the fun part: when joy in Jesus becomes your strong foundation, the bad days, when they come…because they WILL come…won’t seem as bad. And the good days will become great days. And the great ones greater.
“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” -2 Corinthians 8:2
Now all of this sounds great and all, but how does one actually live IN JOY? The key is what your definition of joy is. Joy does not mean you are always “happy”. Happiness and joy are two very different things. One strikes to the core while the other barely scratches the surface. Happiness is found in being temporarily and physically secure, while joy is found in being eternally and spiritually secure. It’s like this:
-I am HAPPY when I am eating ice cream because it tastes good.
-But I have JOY when I think about how much of a blessing it is that my Heavenly Father has given me this moment of peace in my day to relax and enjoy that ice cream…and this feeling lasts far beyond finishing the ice cream.
Happiness is about gratification, and joy is about gratitude.
The way to maintain permanent joy is to maintain permanent gratitude.
And gratitude is a gratified attitude. When you live knowing that you are eternally gratified through Christ, you won’t freak out as much when other things aren’t. That’s just the way joy works- it can’t be taken from you. Even in the hard times. The same cannot be said for happiness.
Also, joy is not just about your physical senses. It goes so much deeper than that. It touches your spirit- your full essence of being. Having joy in simply being alive with a God given purpose is a beautiful thing- and that’s the kind of joy that can help you get through any tough situation. In fact, it was what motivated Jesus to bear the weight of the cross. He knew the ineffable JOY that would come as a result of His resurrection for ALL people:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” –Hebrews 12:2-3 (emphasis added)
See, if joy for us is just about being happy and smiling, we are missing the cornerstone of the matter. Those things are conditional and nearly impossible to maintain at all times. Life is hard. So raw and pure joy isn’t found in a pretty package full of constant smiles and rainbows. It is built on truth- the most powerful thing in the world. We have joy in Jesus because Jesus has eternally saved our souls! And that’s something we have to be joyful about EVERYDAY. But not only that, He is also WITH US. Every. Single. Day.
And if that isn’t a reason to be joyful when you hit the alarm in the morning, then I don’t know what is.
All in all, joy is found in Jesus. It’s unexplainable. Enduring. Incomprehensible. Incredibly explosive. If you would just let Jesus light its match in your heart, it would start to impact everything. But the Bible says it better:
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your JOY may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” -John 15:9-12 (emphasis & capitalization added)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no Law.” -Galatians 5: 22-23 (emphasis & capitalization added)