Merriam Webster Thesaurus provides many synonyms for the word joy, from gaiety to warm fuzzies. But the one that I think stands out the most is the word ‘blessedness’. Joy is a blessing that is given to us as a gift, and it’s something we can hold onto even in the hardest days of our lives.
Not all of us were given bright bubbly personalities or strengths in positivity. That doesn’t mean we aren’t joyful! We are all given joy as Christians as Galatians 5:22-23 tell us joy is just one of the many fruits of the Spirit that we are given because of our relationship with Christ. Do we shine that joy through all the conversations and situations that we are placed in during our daily lives? Or is joy something that we reserve for our Christian bubble where things are safe and everyone is ‘joyful’?
This weekend I was lucky enough to hear a friend speak on this very topic. Now Maria is someone that I definitely say is a bubbly and happy person, but she is also joyful. It’s not necessarily her bubbly nature that shows off her joy but it is just one of many displays that a person can have of the joy that they have been given by the grace of our all-powerful God.
Later in the afternoon, and really throughout the weekend I have been thinking about a question that Maria left us with. What is one practical thing that you can do to display the joy that you have in Christ to the people around you?
Joy is something that makes Christians unique. Not because we are the only people that can be joyful, but because it is something that often singles us out as believers and draws people towards us. God gave us this gift so that like a magnet we can attract our opposites and then use that to show and tell those people about Christ’s love for them and the joy that can be given to you through a relationship with the Lord. The joy that we experience is unique because of its source. When you are getting your joy from something eternal, the joy itself is eternal, not temporary like the things on this earth. Others may be joyful for a day or a season of their lives, but we as Christians have an eternity of joy to bask in.
Now I have seen this joy attract people like moths to a flame. It even happened with me my freshman year in college when I started spending more time with the Christian girls on my dorm floor, and through them came to know Jesus for myself. It’s easy to see it in Christian community, the positivity and loves pours out of spaces where Christians gather together in worship and praise. But how do we give off that same joy and positive light when we are alone, especially on days when we are crabby or stressed out? How does that joy transfer from us individually to our friends, family and coworkers who do not know the Lord as we do?
This is the question that I have had on my mind and really I don’t think I have yet to come up with an easy ‘do these three things and you will be joyful’ list. But I have a few ideas that I would like to share of ways that we can try to show the joy that we have been given by Christ and show his love even when we are at our worst. And maybe through these things I can personally work on experiencing the joy that I have been given myself.
Avoid slipping into sarcasm. I know that I am not the best example of this; it’s basically the pot and kettle situation. But I know that there are two ways that I use sarcasm in my life. One is for humor, in a playful manner to the people that I know and trust. That’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about the other way that I use sarcasm. When it’s meant to hurt others. When I am irritated or frustrated it’s extremely easy to slip into sarcasm and use my words to hurt others. As Christians we are called to be careful with our words and to use them to show Christ’s love, not our own irritation. James reminds us of the effect that our words have on those around us. “9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10). I struggle with this daily, and I know that it might make it harder to show the joy of Christ I have to others if I am using my words to harm them.
Remember God’s promises, and what He has done for us. How do I make that practical in the every day? Well that might be different for everyone, but for me it has meant putting up an image that has everything that I am in Christ, and the bible verses that go along with that. I have it on my wall and it is a good reminder of the value that God places in me, a sinful and imperfect human being. I may be imperfect, but He sees perfection when he looks to me. That in itself makes me joyful. So place key verses around your home, maybe on your mirror in the bathroom to remind you each day that God is good and that he has done and will continue to do great things.
Be thankful. This basically goes along with the last one, if I remember God’s promises I will thank Him for them each day. Giving thanksgiving through prayer is our way of telling God the appreciation we have for him. But be thankful to all the people around you. When I was raising support to go to France as a missionary last summer, I was surprised at the response that I received after sending simple ‘Thank You’ notes to the people that helped fund me. Adults, especially parents of our peers, receive these donation letters a lot for band trips to conferences to mission trips. But they don’t often receive a thank you. This was surprising to me, and the people that I sent these cards felt respected and loved when I made the extra effort to write them a note. This simple act showed them how my work was different than some of the others they had given to and has improved my relationship with several of these people. Telling people that you appreciate what they have done for you is a simple way to show Christ’s love and kindness, and can make them see the joy as well. “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Serve others with humility. I have been a technician for musical theater, music events/concerts and speakers for about eight years now. It’s often a thankless job, with the main objective being that the audience doesn’t realize you are even there. (They see you or realize you are there when something goes wrong generally) Over the years this has been difficult for me as a prideful human being, I want to be noticed and recognized for the effort that I put into a production. Learning to be humble is a lifetime of work, but there is no greater example of humility than Jesus himself.
“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8).
When you stay late and clean up after an event you attend while your peers are leaving and chatting, knowing that you are probably unseen and unnoticed you are imitating Christ. When you go the extra mile to help a friend in need, you are imitating Christ. And even without recognition you are showing Christ’s joy in a simple way. Because you do not need recognition to feel good about serving others, you are serving Christ himself. And that in itself brings joy, which will be seen by those around you, even if they do not say anything.
Recognize the strength of others. Affirm the people around you. This was one of the things that I noticed first about my friends that were Christians when I came to college. They were quick to affirm me, to encourage me in a way that I had not seen before. When you show genuine care and affection for the people around you that are based in your relationship with Christ, people will notice. They will wonder what makes you different and in that you can people them to the cross. Paul practices this art of affirmation in many of his letters, telling the churches of their strengths and reminding them of what they have done for God. Take on that character, not expecting anything in return and you will be showing the joy of Christ.
In summary, I think I have found through writing this that showing the joy that we have is about showing Christ’s love with a sense of humility. When we are actively showing the love and kindness that our God has given us people will see that the source of our strength is based in something other than ourselves and our selfish ambitions. It is a gift from God, and joy pours out of us when we are pouring out love.
One of the easiest ways that we can show the life that we have been given is just to continue to persevere because “to die is to gain” (Phillipians 1:21), so what’s the worst that the world can do to us? Kill us? Physical death is a grand reunion for those who truly believe in Jesus Christ.
Also our ability to persevere and to take even the worst struggles we are facing to the Cross is a testament to the change that we have undergone. Life isn’t easy, and it was never promised to be so, but that doesn’t mean that even at our worst we have to forget about the love and grace that is in the Gospel, which is the source of our joy each and every day.