Choosing Joy

I am convinced God wants us to experience joy. (See In Pursuit of Joy for further reflections.) Joy is one of fruits of the Spirit after all. But joy doesn’t always come easy. It may take an intentional effort to focus on what we’ve been given in our lives. Recently I’ve been making an effort in my life to appreciate the small things. I’m trying to find the beauty in life throughout the day. One of the ways I’ve been able to experience a piece of joy in the middle of my day is through my Etsy newsletter subscription. I love my little mental breaks from work when an email arrives in my inbox. It’s like present just waiting to be opened – crying out, “read me!” I find joy when I look at the amazing items so many talented people have made and enjoy thinking creatively for a few moments before returning to my regularly scheduled work routine.

Yet another way I allow myself the opportunity to reflect on joy is through a thankfulness journal. Each morning I start my day by listing at least three things I was grateful for the day before however large or small the item is. Some days it’s as simple as having flavored creamer in my coffee. Other days it’s feeling God’s presence throughout the day.

I know many of you are thinking this sounds nice and all but it’s is a bunch of fluff. Well, just like anything we have to work at it to develop new skills. Practice makes perfect. Most of us don’t get up in the morning and think, “Today would be a good day to run a marathon – without any training.” We start small. Take a run around the block, then work up to a mile and so on. But just like exercise, we have to train ourselves in the fruits of the Spirit in order to continue to develop them.

As a mental health professional, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Ready for it?  This is a highly effective therapy method. (Disclaimer: this method is actually much more complex. For discussion sake, I have simplified it. This does not replace professional counseling. Please seek professional help if you are experiencing deeper issues.) Essentially, we are to change our automatic thoughts (read gut-reactions) and replace them by focusing on what is true and positive. As a Christian, I can stand behind this method because God tells us to renew or minds and focus on the things above (Rom. 12:2). We are also to focus on what is true, admirable, right, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). By choosing a right perspective and focusing on joy, we can give God glory by seeing the blessing in our lives. Thus by taking the small steps to identify and appreciate joy throughout our day – in emails, sunsets, a smile from a stranger etc. –  we are able to experience the fruit of the Spirit on a deeper level, stand in awe God’s glory, and understand blessing in a profound way.

What about you? What are some ways you experience joy in your life – in big and small ways?


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