so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete John 15:11
My personal journey to joy has been a long-fought battle over much of the past 24 years since my husband died at an early age. It began at first with just trying to put one foot in front of the other to keep going. Ever so gradually as God healed me from the pain of my loss, I began to be able to smile, and then laugh, and begin to enjoy life again. I sought help from professionals, family, and friends, prayed and did the important work of introspection that is so necessary for all growth. My plea to God has been the same throughout the years – Help me to find the joy!
The above Scripture from John was the focus of my 5-day silent retreat last May. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” I eagerly read, prayed, and thought about what “this” is, that Jesus has told us would yield joy. The keys to joy that I discovered in Scripture were: faith in God, loving God, and keeping God’s commandments – not out of a dutiful sense, but because they are actually good for us --- and lead us to joy.
Since that retreat, I have spent the better part of this past year focused on joy – learning about it, thinking about it, praying about it, and learning to live it. And what I have discovered is that God’s joy is all around us, and within us, as He truly seeks for each of us to live in His joy. But I am most often the stumbling block to truly embracing this great gift. My wounds, my attitude, my schedule, and my desire to be in control of an uncontrollable world, all stand in the way of my joy.
My search for joy led me to a book a friend had given me many years earlier that sat gathering dust on my shelf – The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. While these two came from different religious traditions than mine – a Buddhist and an Episcopal Archbishop, there was much wisdom that was transferable and similar to what I knew to be true. They pointed out the obstacles that often keep us from joy – fear, frustration, sadness, despair, loneliness, envy, suffering and illness. And the pillars that can increase our joy – perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.
It struck me that all of these obstacles and pillars fell in some way under those keys to joy that I had discovered in Scripture - having faith in God, loving God, and keeping God’s commandments. Accepting that God is good and always seeking to bring good in all situations, desiring to grow in love of God, and doing what is loving for others as well as myself, have been my focus this past year. While I may sound like a broken record, this is only possible by spending quiet time with God - getting to know and trust Him more and asking for insight, healing, and direction in my own life. Through a consistency in this practice, I have experienced many moments of joy.
How are you finding your joy? Please feel free to comment so others can be inspired by your ideas too.