" I'm in such a good mood that nothing could bring me down today."
Have you ever said something like that? Exuding joy is like walking around as Mario with star power. There are no circumstances, thoughts, or temptations you cannot conquer. Empowering others even becomes effortless when you're owning the real estate of joy.
But we have an enemy, and he wants to strip us of our power. All power. If he can steal away our joy, we're left susceptible to innumerable attacks. In fact, when I get to heaven, I'd like to [respectfully] call the apostle Paul out on excluding this critical piece of spiritual armor from the list in Ephesians 6.
When we feel defeated or anxious or overwhelmed, the chances are low that we will make the call to go volunteer in the soup kitchen or cook up a meal for another family. We aren't going to offer to mow our neighbor's yard or take a friend's kiddos so they can enjoy a date night. When we are not joyful, we are not generous.
Unfortunately, joy is not a thing that can be conjured up-- especially the kind that brims over and leaves us feeling invincible. But there are things we can do to cultivate it.
The first strategy is simple: prayer. The Lord promises to grant us things we ask in His will. Being joyful is within that will. So asking to be filled with joy seems like a good place to start. :)
The Bible uses the words "joy", "glad", and "happy" a total of 370 times throughout and the word "sad" 6. I thought those were interesting factoids. That was free.
Moving on, it is helpful to identify joy-robbers in your life. Maybe it's a task, a person, an activity, or your in-laws' Christmas party. If you can't avoid the situation, try gaining a new perspective by injecting positivity into it. If you start to sweat every time you encounter your boss, see if you can learn something about him or her. What is their hobby? Is there a gift or an act of service you could give as a way to connect and brighten the relationship?
A third way to add joy to your life is to just smile. Slap on a big, cheek-squishing, eye-squinting smile for no reason at all. It triggers happy things in your brain AND it's contagious! Google it.
Here's a personal illustration. Just today I was working with my 10-year-old on math homework. After an hour transpired without completing even one problem, she stormed off to her room. By that point, I was ready to slam some doors myself. But since I'm writing about joy, I thought it wise to sample my own advice. So there I stood, angrily scrubbing dishes, wearing a phony, stupid smile. Through the plastic grin, I complained to God about how annoying and fake it felt, which actually made me laugh. So "point" for God. Bring on the authentic smile.
As a parent, I have a responsibility to lead my daughter and set a good example of how to handle difficulty. If I can't go into things with a good attitude, I certainly can't expect her to. I'd love to report that we reunited over bowls of chocolate chip cookie dough and the math homework solved itself. It didn't. There was still a lot of hard work ahead. On our second go-around, however, I was calmer, and she was naturally more receptive. There were no more tears, and I'm pleased to announce that homework is completed for the whole weekend. *fist pump*
Finally, like I said before, there is an enemy who is after every one of us-- believer or not. He'll rob us of joy and laugh at the ensuing domino effect. Because unfortunately, joylessness is also contagious. So kick that guy to the curb, and smile-- even at complete strangers.They may think there's something up your sleeve or you've missed today's dose of meds. That's okay; smile anyway.
I find it interesting that in 1 Thessalonians 5, the words "rejoice always" are followed up with "pray continually" and "give thanks in all circumstances". Based on this, I don't think it's possible to maintain a joyful spirit without prayer and thanksgiving. Fight the enemy, and choose joy.
If you're wanting to ignite heat seeking missiles against the joy-robbers in your life, I recommend reading the book Boundaries. It is useful for identifying how we allow people or situations to wear on us, slowly eroding our ability to recognize where we aren't protecting our time. We find too many things to say "yes" to and then find ourselves at an emotional deficit-- confused and frustrated. The book is instrumental in helping to understand ourselves and our limitations so we can remain in a healthy state of mind, giving joy the freedom to resurface.