The Truth in Finding JOY
What if Joy Does Not Consist Of Getting What You Want?
In our world the ideal of me, me, me is everywhere. Thinking about yourself is a must. I do not know how many times I heard, “Make sure that you can take care of yourself. Do not ever count on a man.” I thought that was the way that things were to be. I had to look out for myself because nobody else would do it. So I learned to focus on my goals in life. I would get up everyday thinking about what I needed to do to finish all the things that I needed to get done. Never once giving thought to the others around me. I didn’t even wonder or take time to get to know what their story was in life, or take the time to think that they might need my help. I was too busy paying attention to my life, to help anyone else at all.
J – Jesus
O – Others
Y – Yourself
Now that I have taken time in my life to let God in, I am beginning to understand what true JOY is. The first ingredient is following Jesus. This has been harder for me than I expected it to be. I was baptized a little over 6 years ago. I thought that I would accept Jesus into my life, the holy spirit would fill my soul with the goodness of God and that my whole life would just change. In some ways it did. I started seeing some of the things in my life, as not the best choices to be making. I stopped listening to certain music, watching certain shows, and even watching what I was saying. But, the anger, jealousy, stubbornness, sadness, anxiety, selfishness all still hung around. I would try really hard to change and become the person that I heard about during church services, but, nothing that I tried worked. Until, one day I decided that I was going to read the whole Bible. I had read parts of the Bible, kind of like when you go to a buffet dinner, and you choose the foods that you like the best. Eating only the foods that I wanted to eat. Well, reading the Bible had become the same type of ritual. I would look up a certain topic that I wanted to read more about, and read only those verses. I never really read God’s word in a way that showed me the whole picture. A way that allowed me to start growing in God the way that he wanted me too.
Once, I started reading the Bible everyday, God started showing me what it was like to have true JOY. He led me to the realization that there is a whole another world out there, that was hurting, that I didn’t even take the time to notice. Learning about how Jesus had died for me.
He was tortured in one of the most cruelest ways to die in history, for all of us who are sinners. A blameless man, died because I am a sinner. His love and actions provide a way for me to get to heaven. I no longer have to sacrifice animals and follow around 2,000 laws to try to make myself a righteous person. All I have to do is believe that Jesus died for me and I get to receive salvation (a one way ticket to heaven). WOW!! Talk about the greatest love story ever told. And, when have I ever taken the time to love another in this kind of way. Love someone who didn’t deserve it. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46 NIV). When this verse was written tax collectors were despised. They were usually Jews who worked for the Romans. These taxes went to pay for the upkeep of the Roman empire. The Jews did not want the Romans ruling over their territory. They were brutal and would murder you in the most horrible ways for simple offenses, depending on who was ruling what region, during what time. So if we only love those who love us, what kind of person of God are you really? But how do you love your enemies. Divine intervention, that is for sure.
I do not know how many times, in my old self, I would yell, cuss and threaten someone who did me wrong. “How dare they treat me this way,” I would say. Not realizing that letting myself get upset and setting my sights on revenge, really only hurt myself. Finding Jesus, was like finding a light that helped to heal all the holes within myself. I didn’t know that I was so broken, until I gave my life to him. Even though it initially hurt to see how broken I was, eventually I started to truly heal. Not in a surface kind of way that only lasts for a short period of time, till the brokenness would come back. Nope, in a way that truly allowed me to start feeling JOY.
After, I started putting Jesus first in my life everyday, I then turned my attention to helping others. I found myself, looking for people who needed help. I couldn’t help myself. It is like an urge that has to be met. I wanted to help others. I needed to help others. The feeling that I got from helping others became an addiction. It’s like someone who loves their coffee or chocolate (which is definitively me). You get this craving and have to meet that need right away.
It started out with little things, like learning to just listen to others that needed someone to talk to. It was hard for me. I wasn’t a person that really liked to talk to others, let alone listen to them. God sent me tons of these people, to that point of wanting to scream and hide. I had to force myself to truly listen to each person that needed me, without interrupting them. After awhile I started to see that my listening was what they really needed in their life. People started thanking me for being someone who they could come to when they had a bad day. I realized that my small act of kindness had made someone’s day, even week, much better. That was all I needed to get hooked.
Then I started paying for people’s groceries, drive thru orders, Christmas presents and so on. My husband actually had to have me slow down. I was giving away all of our money without even thinking about my family too. So he told me whatever I wanted to give, just do half of that. If I have a lot and someone has a little, you better believe that their share will come.
The best part of thinking about others and helping them, is that I no longer wake up in the morning thinking about me, me, me. I know that there are things in my life that need to be done, but that there is always time to help others. My focus is not on myself anymore, but on those around me, in my neighborhood or town, even those that live around the world. My eyes see in a way that God wants me to see.
God does not want us to forget all about ourselves. Everyone needs to take care of themselves sometimes. We need to rest, just like God did on the seventh day. I have learned that taking a sabbath day once a week, is necessary for me to be of any use to others. If I wear myself out, always helping others, then I tend to get tired, grumpy and sick. Taking time to workout, read a book, work on a puzzle, bake, or watch a movie that I want to are ways that I try to recharge my own battery.
For a long time, as a New Christian, I felt like saying “NO,” to anyone, was not an option. That if you said “NO,” you were not a true Christian. I found myself overwhelmed and doing too much. I became a grumpy mom, rude wife and someone who was not enjoying life too much. God, did not give me three wonderful kids and a great husband, to just give them my leftover time. I was to give them my time first, then help advance the kingdom of God by doing good things for others. I remember reading in the Bible about some people who were very righteous people, who helped others and accomplished some great things in their life. But, their kids, on the other hand, were horrible selfish people. King David was such a great king that God said Jesus would come from his own lineage. In the end of his life, he ran away from his own son, Absalom, because, he wanted to kill him. How horrible it would be, if we helped others so much that we didn’t have enough energy for our own kids or spouse. So please, learn that God is not asking you to be Wonder Woman, or Superman, he just wants you to live a life where you are not the first person on your mind everyday.
True joy is in following these three steps, in this exact order. You must learn to find Jesus everyday in your life. This takes time and intention. I have to make myself get up and spend time in the Bible. This year has been great though, because I have been studying the Bible, left and right. I do not just read a section and then cross it off on my yearly reading list, no, I have been writing thoughts and questions down in a journal. Then I go to biblehub.com and research my thoughts and questions on a certain Bible verse. This has allowed me to learn so much more about the Bible. I am starting to see the history behind each verse, how the verses go together and who my God and Jesus really are.
You can not skip the J part of JOY and go right to the O of helping others. On our own, we can try to help others, but getting worn out or doing it for the wrong motives is likely. You find that you are meeting the needs of others, only to make yourself feel better. A guilty, sinner’s conscience, trying to fix all of their wrongs, by doing good deeds for others. “For God saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything that we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:9) For in trying to prove ourselves we only miss the beautiful gift that God has already given us. The gift of grace (favor or goodwill).
Stop trying to life a JOYful life without Jesus Christ in it. He is, “… the way and the truth and the life …” and until you realize your true need for him in your life, the word JOY will never make perfect sense. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). How will your life change this year, if you give more of it to God?