If you have ever followed me on Twitter (side note, I don’t maintain an active presence there anymore) you may have noticed that my tag line, motto, or whatever that section is called, read: “in pursuit of joy.”
Those words came easily to me. I didn’t belabor what to write in that section, and from the day I put it there I never thought about changing it. It is a sentiment that was true then and will be true forever. To put it more precisely, I am absolutely unwavering in my conviction that joy is not something that finds us. Instead, we must go looking for it. And to pursue this particular fruit of the spirit, you need only a tender heart, a humble posture, and open eyes and ears.
This sentiment can otherwise be expressed as: joy is discipline.
Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for those words, I heard them tonight via podcast while cooking dinner. But credit aside, aren’t they great? I think so. So great that they stopped me mid knife chop. And I smiled. It was one of those moments where God winked at me. That’s another thing I am passionate about, God winks, but I’ll save that for another post. I smiled because I believe it. Joy absolutely is a discipline. A discipline with compounding gains (that one I can take credit for). But in all seriousness, joy begets joy. It is the best kind of investment. Why? Because it offers high reward and little risk. At least in my experience.
But before going too much further, I want to make the distinction between happiness and joy. And if I may take the liberty of using an analogy, I would say happiness is a weekend getaway where as joy is retirement. What I mean is, happiness, like a weekend getaway, is wonderful, but it lacks staying power because you have to go back to “real life”. But joy? It’s the good stuff. It’s the no more “Sunday scaries” kind of stuff.
Joy is the soul-warming, shining out of your face like sunbeams, modern-day-Midas-touch kind of stuff.
And no, I don’t mean everything you touch will turn to gold or that everything will be sunshine. Joy doesn’t fix problems it fixes perspective. Or perhaps more accurately, it recalibrates your inner compass. Joy shows you the true north. Joy points you home. Joy helps you find your way when you are lost.
So how does one find joy? That’s a good and fair question.
My experience = you pray for it.
Sounds simple but that’s my truth. And I share it here because I have been asked many many times a variation of “How do you maintain your positive outlook on life?” And the shortest answer I can give is “I choose joy.” I actively pursue, and in my case that means to pray for, joy.
And before I run the risk of oversimplifying, please hear me when I say I have bad days. I cry. I struggle. I feel defeated. I feel left out. Things don’t always go my way. I get lonely. I get frustrated. I question God’s plan for my life. I am not perfect, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. And my perspective can and does gets skewed.
But each time I find myself a day late and a dollar short of a healthy perspective, I pray for the fruits of the spirit. One of those being joy.
My prayer goes a little something like this:
Dear Lord, I am struggling. I know that you have plans to prosper me, but I am going to be honest, I am having trouble trusting you right now. Help me to let go of my plans and my desire to understand. Help me to see you, hear you, and feel you in my life. Help me to recognize your fingerprints and to say thank you. Find me, Lord. Show up in my life. Be with me at work, at home, and out in the world. I want to be different. I want to know you and I want to embody the fruits of your spirit. Please give me wisdom, grace, patience, peace, and joy. Fill my heart with love, empathy, and understanding. Help me to see my blessings and to be a blessing to those around me.
That’s my prayer. I seek the source of joy because I know full well it isn’t something I can create. It doesn’t come from me. I must ask for it and I must choose it. I must show up with a tender heart, a humble posture, and open eyes and ears. I must pursue joy, each day. I must make joy a discipline. And when I do, it is like seeing with new eyes, listening with new ears, and feeling with a new heart. People notice it. Which isn’t what this is about, but spreading joy is impossible not to do – it’s contagious. It is a fruit of the spirit that everyone is hungry for.
In fact, we’ve all had the joy appetizer called “happiness” but, and please forgive my pun here, most of us leave thinking “happy” hour is the best deal. But those who have tasted joy know better than to spoil the main course. And yes, joy will require a bit more from us, but man does it leave you more satisfied than circumstantial happiness ever will.
So I challenge you this week to pursue joy. Pray for it. Choose it. Chase it. Make it a discipline. Ask God to recalibrate your perspective. And become blinded, in the best possible way, by your blessings.
Forever in pursuit of joy,