Rejoice: “to feel or show great joy or delight”, according to the Oxford dictionary. It’s an intentional act of displaying the joy in our hearts, and it’s something we’re encouraged to do often.
Don’t you love being around joyful people? They’re usually easy to spot – their wide smiles, bright eyes, and contagious laugh are just so magnetic. They can make even the hardest day better, with the inspiring and uplifting energy they bring wherever they go.
Some people are more predisposed to be joyful. They find it easier to notice all the joys and blessings around them every day and they’re not as likely to let hardships knock them down. It’s not that they don’t suffer or struggle, but they know how to turn a tough situation into a pleasant one with a change in perspective or of attitude – and they’re usually very good at it.
Unfortunately, I’m not one of those naturally joyful people.
For years, I’ve been drawn to and fascinated by people with that joyful energy, wishing I could see the world like they do. Wishing I’d show my enthusiasm for life in the same way they do. Wishing my smile could light up a room, or my laugh could brighten days the same way theirs do.
At times I’ve even felt sorry for myself because I wasn’t ‘born that way’; because my first tendency isn’t to see the good in every situation, or the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve allowed myself – ironically – to mope because I wasn’t joyful. Ridiculous, but true.
What I should have realized but didn’t until recently is that joy isn’t something you’re either born with or you’re not. It’s not a one-time gift that if you don’t receive right away, you’ll never have. And if you are naturally inclined toward joy, it’s not a constant thing. It ebbs and flows and you can still have very hard days that leave you feeling anything but joyful.
Joy can be learned.
Over the past couple of years especially, I’ve been working hard to discover more about joy. How I can experience more of it, show it in my life, and share it with others. What it is exactly and where it comes from. Why some days I feel so much more of it than others.
I want to be joyful, and the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that it is possible – with Christ. In fact, the only way true joy is possible is with Christ.
Joy and happiness are often confused with one another or used interchangeably. But both are very different things. Happiness is feeling glad because of events or circumstances. Joy is feeling hope even in spite of events or circumstances. Happiness relies on external factors. Joy blooms from internal peace.
Happiness can be felt by everyone, but it’s fickle, and disappears in the midst of suffering, sorrow, and struggles. Joy can only be had by those with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and it endures even through those same troubles and trials.
After realizing those differences, I began to pray that God would help me to be more joyful. That He’d work in my heart and help grow my joy into something strong and constant, and that I’d be able to share that joy with others.
It’s amazing what God will do for us if we just ask.
Shortly after I began praying for joy, I stumbled across Psalm 118:24 (‘This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’). I’ve read and heard this verse countless times, but that day it really touched me and pressed a clear message on my heart. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
Every single day has been created by God. He’s carefully and lovingly crafted every moment in every day, and He has a plan for all of them. A plan that involves you and me, and provides the very best for us. Even when we’d consider a day ‘bad’, and we’re desperate for either a reset or a fast forward button, God has a purpose for it that we can trust is greater than any hardship.
There has never been – nor will there ever be – a day that God hasn’t sprinkled with blessings.
Some days those blessings are obvious. Maybe we get to do something we really enjoy, we get to have food we like, and we get to be with people we love. We might get a promotion at work, a great grade at school, or glowing praise from someone we look up to. We might accomplish everything we wanted to, and still have time for a favorite hobby before a good night’s sleep.
Other days those blessings are harder to spot. It’s difficult to rejoice in the day when we spend it doing things we don’t enjoy, having food we don’t like, or being with people we don’t get along with. When we lose our job, fail a test, or receive criticism. When we’re constantly interrupted, behind in everything, and forced to spend all night trying to catch up, when all we want to do is curl up and relax.
Joy is like a magnifying glass that helps us notice God’s blessings, even during our hardest days. Even when happiness is the farthest thing from our minds.
Without joy, that difficult day is nothing more than a waste and a discouragement. But with joy, we gain the energy to step back and the clarity to see the blessings sprinkled through the ‘bad’. We’re assured that God is working for good in the midst of it all, and receive the hope and peace that comes with that knowledge.
The more I meditate on that psalm, the more I’m encouraged. Something as simple as changing my focus can make the difference between a day I long to be over and a day I wish would last longer. And the longer I pray for God to increase my joy, the stronger I notice it growing. The more I notice my focus naturally settling on God’s sovereignty and the blessings He provides.
I have a long way to go until I can honestly say I’m joyful most of the time. I’m still far too quick to notice the negatives – the things I feel are ruining my day – and allow them to drag my attitude down. But I’m continuing to pray about it and to remind myself that every day has reasons to rejoice.
Maybe a day is just absolutely miserable and the only thing you can think to call a blessing is that it’ll be over soon. But the next time you’re having a rough day, I encourage you to try what I’m trying: look closer. Take a deep breath. Try to see the day from God’s perspective, or through the magnifying glass of joy.
Some days you may not have to look hard to see those blessings. Other days you may need to focus, and in doing so discover small things you’d usually overlook. The genuine smile from a stranger that made the shopping trip better. The sunshine on a day that was forecasted to be gloomy. The song on the radio that played at just the right moment.
And if all else fails, think of all the bad things that could have happened but didn’t; the things God’s mercifully protected you from. The sickness, the poverty, the persecution, the loss, or the pain. Dwell on the things God has already given you and trust that He’s continuing to to provide. Continuing to take care of you. Continuing to love you and bless you, often in ways we don’t even notice.
There is always a reason to rejoice.
Some day, I look forward to reaching Heaven and getting to see how all the events in my life – even the little things – contributed to and worked out for God’s plan. How things I thought were unimportant or even irritating actually blessed someone else. How things I wished didn’t happen were actually the reason something amazing did.
Our God is one of details, generosity, and countless blessings. He knows every day that has happened, is happening, and will happen – and He’s planted incredible, unimaginable treasures in each and every one.
Even if we’re not ‘naturally joyful people’, we can rejoice in the knowledge that nothing ever goes to waste with God. Every moment of our lives, whether we feel it’s good or bad, is part of a higher plan that’ll ultimately bring more joy than we can comprehend now.
The day Jesus died on the cross seemed like the darkest day in history. But where would we be without it? An eternity away from feeling joy, love, peace ever again.
Over and over again, God has used what’s horrible and heartbreaking and created something breathtaking and beautiful. He’s repaired and mended even the most shattered of situations, and, in doing so, produced blessings we could never have imagined.
When I’m having a ‘bad day’, I try to pause and remember that there are blessings around me. Blessings God has put there on purpose, just waiting for me to discover them. Looking for them is like a treasure hunt, and it’s one that always, always leads to precious rewards.
That’s joy. Knowing that God has, is, and will always continue blessing us, and choosing to keep believing that – no matter what else happens. That’s how we can live as joyful people, looking forward to the treasure waiting for us in Heaven, and rejoicing in what He’s already given us here. That’s how we can light up the world around us, brightening others’ lives as well as our own.
I’m striving to live that way. To search out those blessings and to praise God for them. To rejoice in each moment, because He’s crafted them all. I may not be a naturally joyful person, but God’s growing me into someone who daily notices the treasures around me.
And I’m glad for them. I’m learning to rejoice because of them.
Because of what the Lord has done, I’ll keep on rejoicing for the rest of eternity.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalm 118:24 ESV)