Pretend you have an electronic meter strapped to your body that registers your level of joy at any given moment. With 10 being supremely joyful and one being the opposite extreme, where would your meter be right now? Do people describe you as a joyful person? Did you used to be but are not at this time? Has this internal state of being always somehow escaped you in life?
I choose joy. In fact, learning that it is a choice was life-changing for me. I think I used to think of it as some sort of traveling entity. Before, I navigated life as though I were waiting for it to come to me, to arrive at my doorstep. Now, I understand that A) It is inherent in loving and living your life for Jesus Christ and B) Even when life throws its toughest curve balls our way, we can choose to be joyful anyway.
Joy stealers lurk nearby
How many joy stealers do you have in your life at this time? If you’re not sure what qualifies, take a look at the following list:
- Jealousy is a major joy stealer. Do you know people who always seem to have it together when your life feels like it’s falling apart? You want what they have, be it an attentive, loving spouse, motivated, respectful children, sufficient cash flow, contentment, whatever.
- A close friend of jealousy is comparison. Do you compare yourself to others regarding your weight, the color or style of your hair, your clothes, home, education, career and more?
- Toxic people and situations can instantly and perhaps, permanently rob you of joy if you’re not careful.
- Are you accustomed to feeling worried or fearful or anxious? These emotions cause high levels of negative stress, which can have lasting, physical and emotional health consequences.
- Lack of confidence and self-esteem are two more issues that can impede your ability to experience joy in life.
The good news is that most, if not all of the issues on this list, are surmountable. When you learn to defeat these issues, you can begin to overcome, rise above and choose joy! Experienced, skilled drivers understand the importance of remaining cautious and alert behind the wheel. So, too, must you be diligent in your efforts to suppress the joy stealers in your life. If you let down your guard, they will encroach, gaining a stronghold and threatening to crush you. Don’t let them!
There’s a spiritual battle going on
Joy stealers are tools of the enemy. He wants to tempt you to despair. If you are overwhelmed with feelings of jealousy, have toxic people in your life or struggle with anxiety, you become more of a target. The enemy wants you to think God does not exist or if He does, that He doesn’t care about you. After all, if God cares so much, why can’t He bless you like He has blessed your friends? This mindset is a snare of the devil.
The Apostles tell us in Scripture that we should be thankful when our life is full of trials and challenges. St. Paul wrote about our ability as Christians to experience suffering and joy simultaneously. Why? It’s because even when we suffer, we believe that God has a plan and that He is good. We can also unite our sufferings to Christ on the Cross. Every moment of every day, we are doing spiritual battle. Choosing joy gives the enemy his walking papers.
Practical ways to squash the joy stealers
It’s not always easy to make changes in life. In fact, most changes worth making typically create personal turmoil or challenge. Keep these things in mind the next time a joy stealer wants to drag you down:
- It’s not easy to dissolve a friendship or to be proactive to stop disrespectful behavior. If there is a toxic person in your life, decide today that you wish to cleanse the atmosphere. Remove toxins and choose to be joyful.
- Ponder the specific things you’re grateful for and allow it to fill your heart with contentment. Don’t worry about what others have that you don’t.
- Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Go easier on yourself. Choose activities and relationships that help you build confidence and stop living in fear and anxiety. If you need mental health support to do this, reach out.
- Pray. A close and active connection to God is essential if attaining joy is your goal. Praying is lifting your mind and heart to God. It’s a conduit that allows His spirit of joy to flow through you.
Avoid the mistake of thinking happiness and joy are the same because they are not. You can choose joy even if you’re not feeling happy. Happiness is more of an externally prompted emotion, whereas joy is a virtue, a constant presence. The more joy stealers you allow in your life, the greater the chance you will fall into depression or struggle with deep-seeded anger, discontent or resentment. Choosing joy means you are willing to accept who you are and the blessings God has bestowed on you. It means you embrace the journey, stumbling blocks and all. You can choose to overcome, to rise above, to tarry on!