It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, tell that to my 5-year-old nearly every morning when I’m getting her ready for school. LOL. It’s darker, colder, and the days are shorter which doesn’t equate to joy in my house.
I exaggerate, because my kids do love Christmas, gifts, and the whole shebang. My exaggeration is for those mornings and days that truly feel like someone has sucked the joy out of the room.
Today, I want to remind you that joy isn’t a season, it’s a choice.
Don’t get me wrong, the season can make it hard to choose joy, but it doesn't have the final word. I can’t help but grin as I write this because my morning conversations with my daughter are playing over in my mind.
My baby loves to sleep and when you tell her that sleep is over, the amount of attitude that exudes from her little body is amazing. After wearing my patience down to a nub, I remind her that joy is a choice by asking her very “calmly” to, ‘Change that face, little girl!’ I’d like to report that my words carry deep influence and she is instantly obedient, but every parent knows the struggle. Her response is insightful though, “I can’t. I don’t know how.”
Her words strike me every morning because I know how she feels. Emotions can be overwhelming, which at times makes choosing joy, or a better attitude, feel almost impossible.
Over the last few years, I’ve sculpted my response to that question. I have come up with a strategy to help her choose joy. It’s not foolproof because the emotions win the fight half the time, but I believe I’m teaching her how to fight. I want to give my daughter the tools to make hard choices when everything inside of her is telling her to make the wrong one.
So here is my strategy to choose joy:
Worship God. This may be foreign to some but I encourage you to give it a shot. This means to simply sing and/or meditate on the goodness of God. There is a Bible story in Acts 16 about two missionaries who were thrown into jail and beaten. After the beating, they sat in the jail cell and began to sing and worship God. It’s an amazing story because as they sang, an earthquake shook the prison and the doors swung open and their shackles fell off. The story ends with the jailer and his family deciding to accept Christ and a church began in the Roman colony of Philippi.
I’m convinced not just through the story, but from my own experience, that focusing on the presence of God changes your internal temperature in your current reality. There is something special about worshiping the God of the universe that puts our lives in the right perspective. My daughter and I worship God together almost every morning.
Be Grateful. My initial attempt to help my daughter change her attitude was to ask her to say aloud three things she is thankful for. The first couple of times this didn’t go over so well. It’s still a struggle! But the attempt here, once again, is to give her the tools to choose joy. The tools can be difficult to use at times, but practice makes perfect.
Being thankful helps us shift our focus away from our emotionally-charged reality. Most bad attitudes come from unmet expectations. The best counterattack is to think of the things that have met or exceeded our expectations. Remember Acts 16; the church that began in Philippi? A year or two later, this church is facing difficult circumstances and Paul, one of the missionaries that got whooped, encourages them to choose joy and to rejoice amidst their challenges. In Philippians chapter 4, he writes, “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.”
Be a Giver. Once again, many of our attitudes are affected by the things we didn’t get; expectations that were unmet. Doesn’t this ring true in a season that can be overwhelmed by materialism and the “I wants”? If we aren’t careful, disappointment can carry us to dark places and sometimes the only way to get us out of those places is to begin by doing something practical. There is a fine line between being “fake” and practicing a practical discipline until your internal attitude catches up.
I think of this every time I jump on the treadmill at the gym. My attitude stinks and I don’t want to be at the gym but I force myself to walk for 30 minutes and I’m a completely different person inside afterward.
Being a giver is a similar discipline. It’s a practical way of saying that it’s not all about me. If we truly want to access a joy that supersedes our attitudes, we have to remind ourselves that life doesn’t center around us.
My prayer and hope for you is that you know how to choose joy! Worship God as often as you can, fill your mind with the things you are grateful for, and give as much as you can. I truly believe if you are proactive in these things, your life will be full of JOY.
Mens’ and Outreach Pastor