5 Ways to Choose Joy Now!
I have sweet, beautiful daughters – three of them. And each has traits that I admire. Throughout the years, as I would marvel at the beauty of the work the Lord did in their heart’s design and as my heart would swell with joy (my eyes often simultaneously filling with happy tears), I would prop my chin on my hand and say, “I want to be like you when I grow up….”
One of our daughters has always had a gift for joy. As is often the case in human personalities, she is also the one gifted with moods of all colors. Seeing this in her at a young age and recognizing it as a potential struggle for her (mostly because I recognized it in myself), I worked closely with her to teach her that she was in control of which emotion she chose.
Now I’m not saying that we can never allow our children to feel negative emotions or that they must feel pressure to feel happy, happy, happy all the time. But part of life is recognizing that we have to discern within our heart the difference between genuine emotional distress and moods. If it is genuine emotional distress, a comforting love is called for; if it is a mere mood, a choice is called for.
When my sweet little one was a few years old, she hit a moody patch. Anything could set her off from a meal she didn’t like to a “no” in response to a request for everything in the store. One cool Spring day I had given her a gentle “no” to a request and… the pout came out. She slung her head around defiantly, her long blonde hair swirling around her tiny frame. I reminded her about the choice she needed to make.
You could practically see the wheels turning in her mind as she weighed her options and adjusted her will to choose joy. And although her will had chosen joy, she wasn’t quite feeling the joy yet.
As she stared straight ahead, she said, in a flat tone, rather loudly, “Ha. Ha.”
At first, I was completely taken aback! My mouth was probably agape as I tried to figure out if this was an impish mini-revolt or what! But in the next second, she said again, “Ha. Ha. Ha.” She began to smile and say, “Hahahaha!” Suddenly, she was genuinely laughing! I stood there staring at this funny, giggling, girl who had chosen joy and I felt the prick of the Spirit’s conviction as I realized this tiny person had figured out how to do what I, as an adult, was still trying to master! She chose joy!
I have continued to pursue choosing joy in my own life, often reflecting on that tiny, bubbly person who has become a joy-filled, joy-bringing woman. I have learned much from her and others along this journey to joy:
1. Reset your heart! This is largely what my little daughter did that day. It was as though she approached an intersection on the path to moodiness, but, recognizing the choices before her, decided to take a step back and turn onto the path of joy. We, too, have that choice. You and I have a Good Shepherd who wants to restore our souls, but we have to choose to allow Him to make us lie down beside those still waters (Psalm 23:2-3). Let the Lord reconnect you to your Source of joy.
2. Change your mind! To a large extent, we can change the way we feel by changing the way we think. This is where we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). When the enemy is trying to steal our joy by getting us to dwell on the negative, we can capture those thoughts and replace them by choosing to dwell on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable (Philippians 4:8).
3. Adjust your vision! When we get our eyes off this temporal world that tries to exercise its power to bring us down, and we get our eyes on our Abba who loves us, joy will feel much more natural. We don’t have to let this world steal our joy; we can focus our eyes higher than this realm (Colossians 3:2). Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and live our lives uncontrolled by every mood that wafts our way.
4. Guard your ears! There is a saying in the computer world: “Garbage in; garbage out.” It means that a computer can only give back what has been programmed into it. If the programmer puts in wrong information, right information is never going to be produced by the computer. Our minds are much the same and we must choose positive influences for our minds to feast on if we want anything positive to be produced. What things are we allowing in our ears that could be affecting our joy?
5. Watch your mouth! Did you know there is someone you tend to believe more than anyone else? It’s you! What you hear yourself say, you will believe. Is it any wonder that King David said, “Set a guard, O Yahweh, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3). If we want to live free from the constraints of negativity, we must be willing to restrain the negativity coming out of our own mouths.
We could all use more joy in our lives, but it often isn’t something we need to pray and ask the Lord for. It is something He has already planted inside of us. He has given us His mind, after all (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).
What is called for is choices: a choice at the intersection between joy and moodiness and choices that we must make before we get to that intersection – the choice of what we allow to feed our souls. Set yourself up well and then… choose joy! – even if you have to “Ha. Ha.” until you feel it.