I was listening to a speaker yesterday, and they said something that hit me between the eyes. In the middle of their 18-minute talk, they suddenly blurted out, “You’ve gone through enough in life! It’s okay to feel joy.”
Something in my head clicked. I realized I had been denying myself permission to feel joy for a long…long time.
Why on earth would I do that?
Well, as a recovering perfectionist and workaholic, I’ve got one more quirk to add to the list: I’m also a natural skeptic. Now, skeptics get a really bad rap. But in all reality, the world needs skeptics.
They are the people that are hard to convince. They aren’t won over easily by weak arguments with loop holes. And they can offer much-needed grounding for dreamers and idealists.
But I will admit, I don’t know many joyful skeptics. It sounds almost oxymoronic. We might even question, is it possible?
In short, the answer is yes. Merriam-Webster defines joy as:
to experience great pleasure or delight.
As much as that sounds like an emotion, it is also a mindset. Specifically, it’s a choice. Even scripture commands us to be joyful always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
I know what you’re thinking: there is no magical switch to flip and suddenly — ah-ha! — JOY! Very true. But like many entrepreneurial coaches explain, anything is teachable. We all have the power to re-train our brains. It takes diligence, but is worth it. Why else would the apostle Paul encourage the church at Thessalonica to always focus on it?
Why is it so hard to live a joyful life?
In the simplest terms, because bad things happen. We live in a broken world and it’s easier to be influenced by the negativity than stand against it.
In my case, I’m not sure if denying myself joy came from a masochistic sense of piety. Or maybe pride. Somewhere along the way, I decided either I wasn’t worthy of experiencing it, or that I would experience it later — when all the work was done.
I had forgotten one extremely important fact: there is Someone who desires I feel joy even more than I do.
That’s right. Jesus desires our joy to be complete (John 15:11). Let that sink in: God incarnate, the only perfect being, the creator of the universe, desires for you to be joyful. If that doesn’t feel powerful, you need to spend more time in scripture.
The Christian life isn’t meant to be a drudgery. Joy is a blessing. In fact, denying ourselves that blessing is probably one of the worse things we can do.
Whatever the hangup, anything but relying on scripture and believing God has given us this gift is a lie. And when we choose to believe lies…that means Satan wins. Don’t forget we’ve got an enemy, and he will stop it nothing to keep us alone, isolated and focused on anything but Jesus.
I’ve gotta end with some practical steps. Because if you’re like me, I need to put things into action to start understanding better.
First, dive into scripture. Do a word search for “joy” and take all the verses in. I dare you.
Second, commit to finding something that gives you joy daily. I’m not talking about something you “enjoy.” That’s too benign. Pick something that makes you feel alive and truly joyful — maybe it’s a hobby you’ve ignored for too long. Or staring at your favorite picture. Or dropping it all and going for a drive. Whatever it is, pick something small daily, and watch your capacity of feel joy grow.