In order for us to live the joy-filled life God desires for us, we need to be on guard for joy robbers. This takes some work. It doesn't happen by just saying, “Don't worry, be happy”. We need a strategy.
1. Overcome Irritations with PATIENCE.
We can't avoid irritations coming our way. We have to learn to handle them. Thankfully, in-between what happens to us and how we respond or react, we have a choice to make. Jesus' brother James put it like this:
James 1:19-20. My dear brothers and sister, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
It’s not wrong to feel angry but what we do with this powerful emotion can be destructive. Angry words or actions can be very damaging. Anger needs to be handled with self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives (Galatians 5:19-23). We either express ourselves or control ourselves. The issue is control. Meekness is yielding my right of control to God. Our perspective must embrace the fact that God is in control. He's allowed this irritation for a reason.
Dealing with past anger by apologising appropriuately or seeking to sort out unresolved conflicts. Then prepare for future irritations that will inevitably come your way. Ask yourself, "Is this worth losing my joy over?"
2. Overcome Worry with TRUST.
We've talked about worry before on the BLOG, showing how research reveals that most worry is a waste of time. Some worries are simply decisions waiting to be made. If we take action on our worries, worry can actually be helpful. But there are some things we worry about that are beyond our control. This is where we can learn to "shape our worries into prayers" (Philippians 4:6. Message Bible) and place our trust in God.
God cares for us. He is in control and his providence undergirds everything that happens in this world - orchestrating the good, the bad and even the ugly into an ultimate purpose (Romans 8:28). Yes, we make decisions and other people make decisions, and decisions have consequences, but in the end the Lord's plan prevails. Ask Joseph, from the Old Testament period, who underwent all sorts of betrayal, disappointment, suffering and delays but in the end essentialy said to his brothers, "You meant it for evil, but God used it for good ... to bring about his purpose" (Genesis 50:20)."
Overcome worry faith trust in God today.
3. Overcome Nagativity with GRATITUDE.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel complained about everything - lack of water, no food, giants, their leader Moses, pretty much everything. God heard their grumbling (Numbers 14:27, 29, 36). The apostle Paul wrote about this as an example for us: "Do not grumble, as some of them did - and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:10-11)."
Negativity, grumbling and murmuring destroys our joy and that of others.
Many things that happen to us (directly or indirectly) cause irritation. Often our response is to murmur, to complain, to grumble or to whinge. These negative attitudes usually lead to negative words that effect the atmosphere around us and expel our joy. Other people don't want to be around unless they're the same.
To overcome negativity, develop the character quality of gratitude. Gratefulness is about being thankful, showing appreciation, and giving recognition. Israel forgot the works of God as soon as something went wrong. When we murmur or complain, often we are forgetting the good things. It's in all of us. We are so blessed yet we take so much for granted. We have been given so much - let's be thankful.
Overcome negativity with gratitude.
4. Overcome Hurts with FORGIVENESS.
It's not wrong to hurt. Pain and hurt are part of this life. They will come your way at some time or another in various ways. It's inevitable and often beyond our control. We are all victims of sin in this world and we all carry its scars.
The Bible's pages are full of great and mighty deeds but they are also bathed in blood, sweat and tears. Pain and hurt touches everyone in varying degrees. For example, Joseph was rejected by his brothers, David was betrayed by his son Absalom, and women were barren. People like Job suffered deeply, as did Jesus, Paul and the early Christians.
Christian counsellor Larry Crabb says, "Our joy in Christ in not to replace suffering and pain, it is to support us through it”. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted or familiar with grief. He endured the cross as He focused on the joy ahead. Joy is rooted in the future! Happiness is dependent on present circumstances.
God is to be the source of our joy and the fact that He is in control and will work all things together for our ultimate good. Weeping may endure for a night (season) but joy will come. Incomparable glory is coming!
Just like physical injury, emotional pain and hurt must experience a 'healing process' over time to bring about restoration. The church is to be a place where this can happen. Loving, encouraging and supporting one another. Scars may remain, but the pain can go away.
Wehen we respond with bitterness or unforgiveness, we delay or stop the healing process. The pain and the hurt remain. This dramatically effects us physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. God did not intend us to live like this. Bitterness is like a destructive poison. It destroys us and takes away our joy. Only forgiveness begins the healing process. Prayer, deliverance, counselling, inner healing, quoting Scripture all don't help - until you obey God's word and forgive. We can go through a bitter experience and not become bitter. Forgiveness releases God’s power into your life and into the situation.
Are you hurt? Ok. You have a choice. Do you hold on to it or let it go? God wants to give you His grace - the ability to respond rightly to life's pressures. He can turn our negative experiences (trials) into “gold”.
How’s your joy level? It’s the key to victory and spiritual strength. It comes from God and is independent of circumstances.
What’s your “joy robber”? Is it irritations, negativity, worry or hurts?
How can you choose to respond today?
My prayer is that you will truly live a joy-filled life.