Let’s be honest – we just came out of a really tough year. Choosing joy each day can feel like an impossible task when people are continually getting sick, the news is always reporting something devastating, and the fun parts of life that balanced out all the bad news aren’t really an option right now (oh, to be on a cruise or at a concert with all of our friends).
But Scripture reminds us that “those who look to him are radiant with joy” (Ps. 34:5). In fact, God commands us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). Not just when we feel like it, not just when we’re in a happy season, but always.
Joy is so important that God made it a fruit of the Spirit. In fact, it’s pretty much at the top of the list! It’s preceded only by love, which Jesus told us is our greatest command (Gal. 5:22-23; Matt. 22:35-40).
Of course, everyone wants to have joy, but it can be hard to find in the mundanity of day-to-day life. This is why it’s so important to actively choose joy when you otherwise might not see any. There are many different ways to choose joy each day that will help you radiate joy and grow in your relationship with The Lord.
When you choose joy, your girls will take notice. This is a great way to lead by example and show your girls how to have a kingdom mindset.
Check where you’re getting your joy from— and be honest about it. Are you getting your joy from the number in your bank account? From the number of likes you’re getting on social media? From your spouse/children/co-workers? Vacations and self-care? Even though we know God is where the joy is, we too often get wrapped up in finding joy in ways the world tells us we should. This is dangerous because there is only one thing we can count on to be constant in the midst of everything — God’s love and the truth of His Word. He reminds us that in His “presence there is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). He is the only place where true joy comes from.
Actively practice gratitude. It’s so much easier to be joyful when you realize all that you have to be thankful for, and there are so many things we take for granted on a daily basis. I once heard someone ask: If you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday, what would you have left? Ouch. No parent appreciates an ungrateful child, so why would God want to keep giving more and more to us when we’re not thankful for what He’s already given us? It’s a good practice to write something you’re thankful for for every ask you have of God. This helps with perspective, too. If you’re struggling to find anything at all to be thankful for, dig deep. A very fit friend of mine was recently asked how she has the motivation to work out every day, and her response was that she doesn’t look at it as having to work out, but getting to work out, because many people don’t have the opportunity to move their body and be active the way that she does. We have so many things that do bring us joy to be thankful for.
Use joy as part of your witness. I have a few friends in my life that are always smiling and encouraging regardless of what’s happening in their own life and in the world, and it makes me (and others, I assume!) see Jesus in them. When everything is falling apart and you still have a smile on your face because you’re holding fast to God’s promises, people take notice. This is a great example to set for the girls you’re leading, and hopefully they’ll replicate that joy in their own times of struggle and be able to witness to others. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’re expected to be happy all of the time—mourning and grieving is Biblical, too. But Christians mourn and grieve differently than the world does because our hope doesn’t lie in this world—and we know that he turns mourning to dancing (Ps. 30:11; cue “Graves into Gardens” by Elevation Worship). Relentless joy regardless of circumstance allows both believers and non-believers to be encouraged by the love of Jesus in your life.
Find joy in trials. James tells us to “count it all joy…when [we] face trials of many kinds” (Jas. 1:2). Although this can seem like an oxymoron and really isn’t fun in the moment, most of us look back on times of trials and yearn to be as close to God as we were when we felt like we had to rely on Him just to get through the day. After all, “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18). Plus, some of the coolest moments in our relationship with God can stem from us looking back on how he was growing us or steering us toward something better through those trials. I’m certainly thankful to serve a God who gives us glimpses of His joy and light even our lowest times.
Surround yourself with the joy of others. One of the simplest joys in life is sitting around a table full of good food and laughing with good friends. It’s understandable to want to pull away when joy is hard to find, but by surrounding yourself with friends who love you and love God, you have a much better chance at cracking a smile or sharing a laugh than you do when you try to walk through a trial alone.
Pray for more joy. The Bible tells us to “Ask, and you may receive, that your joy will be full” (John 16:24). Since joy is a fruit of the Spirit, the Spirit will actively be working on this aspect of your life through sanctification. If this is a fruit you’re struggling to see in your own life, pray that He would help you find ways to be joyful.
Find what makes you feel joy and do more of it. What makes you feel closer to God? It could be leading your teen girls, sharing your testimony with others, hosting your small group, marveling at His creation in nature, playing or creating music, or a whole host of other things. When you feel your joy-tank getting low, know how to fill it up. This won’t look the same for everyone, so know yourself well enough to be able to identify tangible, Biblical ways you can become joy-filled through serving God and others.
Choosing joy can take work, but it’s so much better than sitting in sadness about things that are out of our control. Not only does choosing joy turn your day around, but it allows you to be a good example to those looking up to you. I call my friends who are great at doing this “walking rays of sunshine” — and we could all use a little more sunshine in our lives!
Brooke Hill is a recent Baylor University grad who lives in Nashville, TN. She joined the Lifeway Students team as a content specialist after graduating and is excited to contribute to equipping churches with content to help students love Jesus more. She’s led student small groups since she was a freshman in high school and still loves it today! Brooke enjoys finding ways to serve in her community, reading a good book, marveling at God’s creation through traveling, and a cozy night in with some yummy pizza.