Joy is a strange concept. There are many types of joy, and we encounter many of these on a pretty regular basis. We see joy in the eyes of our kids when they accomplish something new or obtain that one thing they have “always” wanted. We sing about joy in our worship – especially during Christmas in its rapid approach. Joy is often confused with happiness, which can speak to our misunderstanding as Christians of what real, authentic joy is – especially in our relationship with Christ.
In my day job with the State of Colorado, we go through seminars and other events that many of you in a corporate environment also experience. There is so much information out there about leadership and inspiring people – we tend to follow whatever is “in style” for the month. As it happens, I attended one of these seminars just last week, and for once I took a lot from it – not just for work, but for application to everyday life. One of the speakers was an ethics professor at CU Denver who spoke about life priorities – and he spoke in a very no-nonsense way that resonated strongly with me as a Christian who has a fairly abstract view of this concept of authentic joy.
“If you cannot consistently go about your life with joy in this country today, then you are chasing something FAKE.” – Corey Ciocchetti
For me, I ascribe much of what I call joy to my possessions and my achievements. I think this is true for most Americans, if not the whole planet. Yet, no matter what I collect and how much recognition I receive, am I really joyful? Sure, there is fulfillment, convenience, even prestige – but where is the contentment? The Joy? The question is about priorities: what am I chasing? If you sit down and write out how you would organize your priorities if you had all the desires of your heart and compare that list to how you actually currently organize your priorities, 99.9% will see that what they are chasing does not usually insure joy. It doesn’t even insure satisfaction, let alone contentment.
“Beware of the barrenness of an overly busy life.” – Socrates
I currently work a full-time job, a part-time job, and attend school at Metro State. I am a husband and father, a musician, and a sports enthusiast. I chase after a lot of things; enough, in fact, to create tension headaches and ulcers. As a rule, I tend to chase the thing currently in front of me – usually work or school. My incredibly busy schedule does not bring me joy – it brings me stress, fatigue, and sometimes even loneliness. When I am booked from dawn to dusk, when am I pursuing my family? Or more importantly, when am I pursuing my Savior?
The truth is that real joy only comes from God, and an authentic, active relationship with him. Honestly, in my human nature, I am not wired to be satisfied or content with my life – only my relationship with Him can bring that peace and satisfaction. Priorities do not dictate how much time is spent on an activity, but rather, what comes first. Is He first in your life? I’ve found in my 40 years of life that if I am putting Him first, the other things – stress, fear, weariness – tend to roll off my back.
There are other things that can contribute to your joy, provided you keep God at the forefront. I have come to believe that anyone can find life a little sweeter by doing the following three things every day:
- Think. Take some time to think about things outside of your everyday routine. Really engage your mind – form opinions, work through confusion, try to understand your own circumstances. This is especially good in meditating on God’s Word – wisdom begins with wonder. (paraphrasing Socrates again)
- Have your emotions stirred. Get goosebumps. Emotional response does not have to be big to be significant – as they say, we don’t always need touchdowns; sometimes we need inches. This means that sometimes you need to take risks. For me, it is easy to have my emotions stirred when I worship – whether I am playing and singing or singing in my car.
- Laugh. At yourself, mostly. Remember that we are all humans living in the same human condition. Life can be far too difficult to not laugh at it and at ourselves. You may find that God has an active sense of humor Himself.
Do these things promise authentic joy? If your heart and mind are centered on Christ and Him crucified, then yes. We were given this life to enjoy – with God at its center. Take Joy in Him, for He takes Joy in you!