“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations” James 1:2 (AMP).
I would ask you to take a few moments to thoughtfully view and consider the below picture (my apologies for the poor quality) …
Most of you do not know her and may be wondering why I chose to include such a picture in a post about joy. Please bear with me as I set aside my personal angst and do my very best to cooperate with God (I really wrestled with Him on this one). In sharing this picture, I am attempting to make what I believe is an important point here.
This beautiful woman was my precious mom, Linda. I took this photo just one day after she underwent a second, major surgery to again remove cancerous brain tumors. At the time of this photo, she had been battling a rare, aggressive form of cancer consistently for three, hard years. She had already undergone several major surgeries, numerous rounds of targeted radiation, and nonstop chemotherapy. By this time, she had lost the ability to stand or walk on her own. She could no longer do everyday tasks such as bathing herself or doing chores. She had lost the freedom driving her car provided. She could no longer really taste food or drinks. She was confined to her home. Yet, she smiled. I have not had the strength to look at this picture even once since before she died. While it shatters my heart to do so now, I believe it best serves in making a critical point. What do you see when you look at her? I see joy. Her smile, even in the face of such devastating adversity, radiated with unspeakable joy. Do you see it? Do we fully comprehend the importance of living a joy-filled life despite circumstances and recognize how petty some of our problems are in comparison?
Allow me to sidestep for a moment and be completely candid. As I sit here writing this article now, I am overwhelmed with raw emotion. Welling up inside me is such an urgent need and desire to inspire change not only in myself, but in others. The feeling borders on anger. I want so much for us all to take a hard, honest look at ourselves and get serious about living the lives Jesus died for us to live and not the selfish, self-centered, sloppy lives tolerated or expected in today’s society. In reality, Jesus died to free you from yourself (see II Corinthians 5:15). We all must come up higher. If showing this private picture and revealing my mom’s hard fought battles makes us all pause to shamefully consider our own attitudes and behaviors, then any heartbreak in doing so was worth it and her premature death was not in vein.
In the natural, I am not overly gifted or intelligent. In fact, I am nothing without God! I believe what you read here are God-filled words. Certainly, God is speaking to me right now, but He is also speaking to you … not just your spouse, significant other, or friends … not just a co-worker or neighbor. No, He is speaking to you. There is a reason you are reading this, so I pray you will press on.
The world uses the words “happiness” and “joy” interchangeably, but the Bible teaches us there is a difference. Happiness is oftentimes a fleeting emotion. It is driven by external factors. Consider how often we choose to pay a high price for a cheap thrill when we know full well the misery inside us will soon return. Joy, on the other hand, comes from within and is based on our relationship with God. That relationship is a constant source of everlasting, unmatched joy. True joy is based on knowing who we are in Christ. Unlike happiness, true joy is not dependent on our circumstances. My friends, this is why my mom radiated such joy despite unimaginable circumstances. Her joy came from having a close relationship with God and from doing what the Word instructs. While we all want to have peace and joy in our circumstances, God wants us to enjoy peace and joy in our hearts.
One of the greatest stealers of joy is instability. Instability causes us to experience a rollercoaster of emotions that greatly affect our joy. It keeps us imprisoned by our circumstances. One of our goals as Christians should be to become stable. After all, what better testimony is there than to show others the very things we say we represent?
When I speak of stability, I am referring to being stable in our thoughts, words, and emotions. Do you ever stop and think about what you are thinking about? I have often heard Joyce Meyer say, “where the mind goes, the man follows.” Pause to consider the truth of that statement. Your thoughts are what drive your words and emotions, and ultimately, your behavior. Believe it or not, we do not have to stop and camp on every thought that drops into our heads. No, we are fully capable of redirecting our thoughts. It is not always easy, but God has equipped us to handle hard things. II Corinthians 10:15 says, “We break down every thought and proud thing that puts itself up against the wisdom of God. We take hold of every thought and make it obey Christ” (AMP). This verse not only tells us we must control our thoughts, but also provides reassurance that we are able. Casting down wrong thoughts inevitably leads to fewer unbridled words and thoughtless actions, and it causes a substantial increase in joy.
From your thoughts, flow your words. If you think negatively, you will speak negatively. Conversely, if you think positively, your words will become positive containers of power. I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed in earnest about a problem and thanked God for the work He was already doing in that particular situation. Not long after, you would find me grumbling or complaining to family or friends. With my very own mouth, the very one I had used to go to God, my mindless chatter thwarted any power my prayer had. What did it get me? It got me a radical decrease in joy and likely decreased the joy in others.
I truly believe one of the greatest ways we can increase our joy in everyday life is by simply minding our own business. I am often amazed how easily and frequently we express our opinions about things for which we have absolutely no responsibility. Technology and social media make it easy to spew our thoughtless remarks. What we must remember is we will, on the day of judgment, give an account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word we speak (see Matthew 12:36). Many of us have a bad habit of meddling and talking too much about nothing. As a result, our careless chatter can tear down others and lead people to ungodliness (see II Timothy 2:16).
I believe what motivates our incessant meddling, fault-finding, and gossiping is a need to feel important, a want to fit into a particular group, or a fear of being labeled. But, at what cost do we do this? Should it not matter that it displeases God and robs us of our joy? Do we not realize that our words are like boomerangs in that whatever we send out will just come right back to us? For increased joy, the Bible says very plainly, “[f]or let him who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good — whether apparent or not] keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from guile (treachery, deceit)” I Peter 3:10 (AMP). We must have the wisdom and courage to be who God created us to be and not give into our fleshly desires.
I hope you will join me in determining to use the power of our thoughts and words to increase joy. I, for one, want to follow the example set by Jesus and by my own amazing mom. We should all endeavor to speak life everywhere we go (Proverbs 18:21). After all, I believe God’s decision to give us only one mouth and two ears has very little to do with being aesthetically pleasing (see James 1:19).
© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills. All rights reserved.