1. a deep feeling or condition of happiness or contentment
2. something causing such a feeling; a source of happiness
3. an outward show of pleasure or delight; rejoicing
I've been working on cultivating JOY in my life. Why "cultivating"? Well, much like my weedy fallow garden (except for the pea bed which still has no sprouts) I need to plant and tend the particular things I want to grow in my life.
What!! You mean my joy isn't contingent upon my circumstance? Well, it can be, but it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be.
I stopped watching the news.
When the elementary school shooting happened last winter, I couldn't watch. I was so stressed and overwhelmed by my own personal life. The stress of making family work when you are together for less that 1 hour per day was weighing on me. I wanted to remain joyful. I wanted to lack nothing.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
So I chose to not watch. I chose to not read the articles, I stayed off Facebook, I wouldn't view the images.
I turned off the news.
This was a decision made out of the human need to shut off that which overwhelms our spirit. The interesting thing, though, was that while others were walking around in a daze, not understanding the world in which we live, I was able to avoid that feeling and was able to continue to tap the source of my joy. My own circumstances may not be as overwhelming as I think when I stop fighting other's battles and worrying about trials that haven't been given to me.
Now, I am not saying that we shouldn't care for those who are in the midst of trials, love them, help them if it is in our power. The Bible is clear, we are to help those in need.
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? I John 3:17
Is knowing about specific sins and people's personal trials all over the world, in radical media form, in real time something we are meant to know? I would suggest that it is not. I would argue that our human psyche is not capable of knowing it all and remaining healthy. All of the scripture I could find on helping others seemed to indicate face to face help. In community. Seeing a need. Filling it.
Nowhere in scripture are we instructed to seek out tragedy, obsess over it, fret about it, alter our lives to accommodate what our fragile psyches are telling us.
We are instructed to count our own trials for joy.
I have been literally counting them, the trials. I have been writing them down and praising God for them and there is joy there. I have been looking for ways to see a brother in need and fill that need. To bear burdens of friends, family and those I "do life" with. There are enough trials there to keep me busy. I have kept away from sensational news stories. I am healthier for it. I can access the Grace being poured out on my own life and family when I am not burdened by the emotions surrounding literally everyone else's tragedy or struggle.
So, I challenge you to 3 things:
- Turn off the news for 1 week (or one month). See if has any effect on your heart and mind.
- Count your trials for joy. Write down those things that are painful, and hard. Thank God for them and for how He will use them for His glory. Don't just praise Him in the storm, praise Him for the storm!
- Read Anne Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.