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Monday, April 13, 2015

7 Ways to Restore Your Joy


What gives you joy? Not just "happiness," I mean the kind of joy that is a deep-down sense of satisfaction and confidence that surpasses whatever is going on around us, overrides a painful past, and supersedes worries about our unknown future. When our joy is at an optimum level, we do our best work, our relationships are strengthened, even our health benefits. So what can we do when our joy levels have fallen below that optimal line? When times are hard and the storms of life come, joy can seem as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The Bible describes joy as the fruit of the Spirit of God, like love and peace and kindness and self-control. That means it's always there in us, in our spirits, whether we "feel" it or not, because it's not something we create from our own resources. It's also something of a commodity... something that can be nurtured and nourished and built up, or depleted. David prayed "restore to me the joy of my salvation" in Psalm 51 and Paul writes about joy that overflows in Philippians 1:26.

Think of it like this: you can have a tomato plant, and with proper care, it will produce tomatoes. You don't have to MAKE the tomatoes, the plant makes the tomatoes. But for the best results, you do have to provide some resources to help that tomato plant be the best tomato plant it can be. So what resources do we have at our disposal for cultivating joy? Here are seven—just seven—from the Bible. There are many more, I know, and the simplest is probably David's example: ask for it, but there are also some practical exercises we can do to increase our joy, some you may not have considered. Try one every day this week! 

1. Promote peace. 

There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace. Prov. 12:20
It's really, really easy to fight and strive and complain and murmur and be snarky. But those things are joy thieves. Instead, promote peace. The Hebrew word for promote here is also defined "advertise, advise, consult, determine, guide, and purpose. In other words, make it your aim in all your interactions (that includes social media and IRL) to be a peace pusher! Purpose not to enter into that political debate on Facebook, turn off the angry commentary on the news report, and don't let that grouchy relative suck you into his or her drama. And then take it one step further: advertise peace. Make it a point to say nice things, to soothe hurt feelings, and to share positive thoughts and energy with others.

2. Listen, then speak.

A man finds joy in giving an apt reply - and how good is a timely word! Prov. 15:23

Talk to someone, and really listen to what they have to say. When you listen with your spirit, you'll know what to say in response, and that will benefit you and the person you're talking to. A good conversation with a friend, or even someone you don't know very well, can be a joy builder for you both.

3. Smile! 

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Prov. 15:3

You know when you're feeling down and folks say, "Smile!" and you just want to punch them? It turns out there's something to it. Putting on a smile, on purpose, brings joy to your heart. And it does good for those around you, too! There's probably research out there to prove it, but I'm betting putting on a smile releases endorphins or triggers some other chemical response in the body that helps change our attitude.

4. Smell something wonderful.
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart... Prov. 27:9

This one might be my favorite. On Palm Sunday I went to Mass. One of my best friends lost her son the day before, and I'd promised to light a candle for him. I was grieving with my friend, and fighting a cold, but when I walked in, the church was filled with incense and I could feel the clouds of sorrow begin to break. So light a scented candle or burn some incense, or put on a new perfume, or look into essential oils and aromatherapy when you feel down.


5. Shout it out.
You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Isa 1:26

"Shout for joy" is all over the Bible, and we usually interpret it as shouting BECAUSE you have joy, but you can increase your joy with a shout. Not shouting AT someone, mind you, just shouting. I live with my grandchildren. They shout a lot. And, like most children, they have a lot of joy. Go ahead, be loud. The world and all your problems are shouting at you, shout back!


6. Sing, sing a song. 
Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Psalm 81:1

This is another one that is found repeatedly throughout the Scriptures. Why have hymns and psalms and worship music so important to our faith? Why does it feel so good to turn up the radio in the car when your favorite song comes on and sing at the top of your lungs? Or belt out a tune in the shower? Because singing builds joy.


7. Leap! 
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. Luke 6:23

Last but not least, get some exercise. We've all heard it, exercise is good for the heart, the brain, the body, and the spirit. Leap a little bit. Go for a run. Take a walk. Go swimming Play hopscotch. Dance! David danced unto the Lord with all his might, remember? (2 Sam. 6:14) David, the same guy who asked God to restore his joy. Is there a connection? Maybe. Get moving, and keep moving. You might not "want" to, but you'll feel better for it in the end!

I've had a couple of very difficult weeks, and I'm tempted to "dwell in the dust," but I can't. I need to keep my strength up for myself, and for my friends and family. So I'm going to apply these instructions this week and see what happens. I'd be interested to know your results, particularly if you try one you haven't tried before!

Blessings!

Niki Turner




4 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Niki! I've been dwelling in the dust, too, and that verse hit me hard this morning! Thanks for the ideas. I have been lax about exercise lately, which is typical when I have a deadline. I need to stop this pattern. I know that would help me.

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    1. Blogger ate my comment. I hope you can get some exercise incorporated, Susie! I know for me it's a lifesaver. Not just my life... the lives of those around me. ;)

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  2. Tha k you Niki, I am so dusty! My peace and me have been on again off again for years. Since getting sick it has been harder. Thank you for your words and wisdom, you are one of those people who I feel is speaking directly to me. Blessings in light and love dear Niki.

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    1. Bless you, Colleen! You are one of the strongest people I know, and you are in my prayers!

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