Better Days Ahead—Part 7
December 7, 2021
by Peter Amsterdam
Better Days Ahead—Part 7
As Christians, when we invite Jesus into our hearts and lives and are filled with the Holy Spirit, our lives change; we experience the joy of our salvation and rejoice with an “inexplicable and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8), which is a wonderful gift of God. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), and the Bible teaches us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The apostle Paul tells us that it is God’s will that we “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
Despite God’s promises, as Christians we can experience times of joylessness, dullness, or monotony. We can face times when unexpected change, loss, or disappointments sap our joy, which can leave us wondering if we will ever recover our joy and motivation.
But the good news is that no matter what our circumstances and what losses we have sustained, we can rediscover our joy! We can learn to be joyful even during tough times, because our joy is not dependent on the fleeting circumstances of this world, but rather on the constant presence of Jesus in our lives.
We can look to the Lord, trust in His goodness and love for us, and by His grace we can learn to be joyful no matter what we are experiencing in the moment. James 1:2–4 says: “Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing” (AMP).
It’s important to remind ourselves that the source of our joy is Jesus. Knowing Him, staying close to Him and His Word, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and walking in obedience to our calling can infuse our lives with joy that is not dependent on physical circumstances.
We read this in Psalm 43:3, “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live” (NLT). [The psalmist] sought after God, then committed to praise and trust Him no matter what, which is what we read in the next verse, “There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!” (Psalm 43:4, NLT)
Despite his heartache and overwhelming emotions, the psalmist remembered God truly was his only help and that GOD was always there, never forsaking him even when it felt like it.
If you’re feeling forgotten, by others or by God, let your hope swell and your joy return by intentionally believing that God will never leave you and is always by your side. Make a commitment to focus on God’s presence and the blessings He has given you, and let God be the source of your joy.—Tracie Miles1
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.—Acts 13:52
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.—Psalm 126:3
The joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. …
Jesus exemplified joy in His ministry. He was no glum ascetic; rather, His enemies accused Him of being too joyful on occasion (Luke 7:34). Jesus described Himself as a bridegroom enjoying a wedding feast (Mark 2:18–20); He “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21); He spoke of “my joy” (John 15:11) and promised to give His disciples a lifetime supply of it (John 16:24). Joy is reflected in many of Jesus’ parables, including the three stories in Luke 15, which mention “rejoicing in the presence of the angels” (Luke 15:10) and end with a joyful shepherd, a joyful woman, and a joyful father. …
Because of its supernatural origin, the joy of the Lord—our gladness of heart—is present even through the trials of life. We know we are children of God, and no one can snatch us away from Him (John 10:28–29). We are heirs to “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade,” and no one can steal it from us (1 Peter 1:4; Matthew 6:20). …
The joy of the Lord may be inexplicable to the one who does not possess it. But, for the believer in Christ, the joy of the Lord comes as naturally as grapes on a vine. As we abide in Christ, the True Vine, we, the branches, are full of His strength and vitality, and the fruit we produce, including joy, is His doing (John 15:5).2
Joy boosters. Besides centering our lives on the Lord and His Word, and seeking to be filled with His Spirit, and choosing joy, there are also “joy boosters”; that is, practical approaches that we can implement to enhance or recapture our joy. Let’s look at some ways in which we might do that. This is by no means a complete list, and if you’ll take some time to think and pray about it, the Lord can give you ideas that will work well for you personally.
Notice the little things. Try to pay attention to even brief moments that bring joy; these could be the result of little things. Take a moment to intentionally thank and praise the Lord for the little wonders that inspire you. Once you are aware of the things that produce joy for you, think about how you can intentionally build more of those moments into your life.
It could be such things as watching children play, seeing the beauty of nature, laughing at a joke, eating one of your favorite foods, hearing a beautiful song, or feeling invigorated after a walk or exercise session, creating or appreciating a work of art, etc. Let small things bring you joy!
Many people are so disconnected from joy that they aren’t even really familiar with what joy feels like in their body or what types of things bring them joy. A joy journal is a good place to start: Pay attention for a week or two to all the moments when you find yourself smiling or laughing or feeling a sense of joy wash over you. Notice where you are, whom you’re with, and what you’re doing—those can all be clues to the kinds of things that might bring you more joy. ... The goal is to notice them, and once you notice what is causing them, you can re-create those conditions in your life.3
Allow time to do what brings you joy. Maybe some of the things you enjoy doing might not seem important enough to take the time for; they are not priorities. Perhaps it feels like a self-indulgent waste of time or a distraction to your more important goals. But it is important to consciously make time and space to enjoy life as you are able.
Take a minute to remember what you used to love to do, and find a way to pick it up again. If things are different now and that activity is not possible, or you find that it doesn’t “bring you joy” now, try something else. Just try! If you’re feeling blah or in a joyless state of mind, don’t resign yourself to that mindset. Stir yourself up, take the time to find something you like to do, and enjoy it!
Take inventory of what saps your joy. Happiness can be circumstantial and fleeting, but joy is a gift from God, and we can have joy even in difficult circumstances. But it’s important to realize that there may be things in our lives that steal our joy. Those are sometimes referred to as “killjoys.” Here is an excerpt of a helpful article:
Life, even for the best of us, has its ups and downs. That is not going to change, but there is a way to make the “ups” far more common than the “downs.” The key is to strive for joy rather than happiness.
The difference between the two is significant. Happiness is based on circumstances. If things are going well, we are happy, if they’re not, we are unhappy. Unfortunately, circumstances in today’s world are usually poor, so happiness is becoming more and more elusive.
Joy, on the other hand, is not tied to circumstances. Rather, it is the positive confidence one feels from knowing and trusting God regardless of circumstances. Joy is a key component of what Galatians 5 calls the “fruit of the Spirit.” It is a gift from God, but we must prepare our hearts to receive it by first identifying and eliminating those things that are robbing us of joy.4
It is important that we not allow negative emotions, thoughts, or moods to take hold in our lives. These “killjoys” can grow with time and become habits or automatic reactions. If you have allowed any of these killjoys to take root in your life, it’s important to take the time to seek the Lord, study His Word, and ask His Spirit to restore the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12). You can have a fresh start beginning today! The Lord can cleanse your mind and spirit and fill you with His joy.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.—Psalm 94:19
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.—Romans 15:13
Remember that as Christians the source of our joy is Jesus. In the world, happiness is often associated with appearance, wealth, relationships, possessions, etc. The message the world is sending is that happiness comes from outside ourselves. We’re bombarded with messages telling us that circumstances control our sense of joy. But in reality, our joy comes from Jesus. Love, joy, and peace are all fruits of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the source of our joy! Praise the Lord! As we seek the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to reign in our lives, we can rediscover our joy.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.—Habakkuk 3:18
They lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion.—Isaiah 52:8
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.—1 Peter 1:8–9
As believers we have so many reasons to rejoice and be filled with joy. We have Jesus in our hearts. He is with us constantly, and we are guaranteed to be with Him and our loved ones forever in heaven. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and can enjoy the fruits of the Spirit regardless of whatever hardships, difficulties, or disappointments we face. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in today, we can stand on the solid rock of joy.
I will close this article with a beautiful prayer written by Kay Warren.
Prayer: I Choose Joy
God, thank you for your love and passion for me and for accepting me into your family through Jesus Christ. I’m so amazed to be your beloved, but I am eternally grateful.
Thank you for Jesus Christ. His life as both a man of sorrows and a man of joy gives me permission to seek a life of joy for myself. Thank you for your Holy Spirit, who graciously gave me the gift of joy as part of my spiritual inheritance, my birthright; I choose to fight for my right to experience joy.
I choose to stop digging my own broken cisterns that can’t hold water. I choose to no longer look at people, places, positions, possessions, and my personality to find joy.
I choose instead to find my joy in the only true source of joy: YOU! You are the only one who has soul-quenching springs of living water that will never leave me dry.
I choose to seek the eternal over the temporary every time. I choose to meditate on who you are so that I can align my value system with yours, God, with a value system of heaven. That is where I will choose to place my mind and my thoughts.
I choose to be a person who nurtures joy in myself and in the lives of those you have placed in my path. I choose to be a joy builder instead of a joy killer. I choose to grow in the heart attitudes of grace, trust, balance, acceptance, positive thoughts of others, nonjudgmental love, empathy, and appreciation.
I choose to make changes in my daily life that help me live a life of joy. I choose to value myself the way you value me, to intentionally seek out joy mentors, to not get caught up in the small irritations of daily life. I choose to love extravagantly, to take advantage of the pleasures my senses provide, to laugh from my belly, and to become a giver today, not someday off in the future.
I choose to live with a grateful heart, eyes wide open to see your goodness. I choose to love every moment of life you give me, whether that moment contained sorrow or joy. I choose to look for you and for joy in every messy circumstance that you allow.
I choose to develop a settled assurance that you are in control of the details of my life. I choose to be quietly confident that ultimately everything will be all right. And I choose to praise you in all things, even the things I cannot understand. I trust you, God. I courageously choose joy!5
1 “I Feel Forgotten,” Proverbs 31 Ministries, November 23, 2018, https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2018/11/23/i-feel-forgotten
3 Ingrid Fetell Lee, “How to Rediscover Joy—and Eliminate Killjoys,” Goop, https://goop.com/wellness/mindfulness/how-to-rediscover-joy/
4 “Are There Any Joy Killers in Your Life?” Gilroy Dispatch, November 4, 2006, https://gilroydispatch.com/are-there-any-joy-killers-in-your-life/
5 Kay Warren, “Choose Joy” (Fleming H. Revell, 2020).