Joy is the emotion that has power to inspire faith and courage. “… be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength….” (Nehemiah 8:10) The Westminster Catechism says: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
There are some habits that are worth cultivating, that help ensure that our joytank is kept full.
Here are two suggestions:
• Worship. Take time to worship God. Like Nehemiah who was inspired to lead an army of builders to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, in the face of discouraging circumstances, God’s presence had power to infuse him with joy and strength to restore the city. He called it “The Joy of the Lord”. God is, in Himself, continually filled with joy. Jesus’ experience is described as: “God has anointed, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than anyone else.” (Hebrews 1:9). And “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11). The same power is present within us, to impart to us “the fruit of the Spirit which is … joy”. In an ever increasing worshipful lifestyle we can learn to “practice the presence of God.”
• Thankfulness. A habit of thankfulness is able to keep one from negativity and ensures a daily atmosphere of joy. Choosing to be thankful for even small things, such as an interesting cloud in the sky, the face of a smiling child, the song of a bird nearby, can put a smile on one’s face, and lift one’s soul out of the doldrums. Joy is not just a welcome byproduct of obedience to God, it is at the heart of our mandate. Many occasions in the Bible, joy is commanded of us. Thus, clearly, joy, like love or faith, is a response we can choose to exercise. It is not just something that happens to us, but it is a response we can do as an act of the will.
It is possible to refuse to allow difficult and hard circumstances to permanently rob us of our joy.
Negativity and joy are both contagious. Keeping company with negative individuals and those with toxic dispositions has power to infect and poison our perceptions and attitudes.
By the same token, if you and I choose to respond with joy, we will bring joy to others. Dorothy Day said: “I believe we are called to the duty of delight.”