You Really Can Find Natural (Supernatural) Joy in Everyday Life

Many of us struggle to believe that natural (supernatural) joy can be real in our everyday lives. Although we see it throughout scripture, our circumstances tend to obliterate it from our daily sight. And even though we sing about it on Sunday morning, our lives don’t echo it on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. So, is joy really natural?

I recently wrote the article, Why We Need to Know If We are Starving for Joy. Inside, there is a list of 7 things scripture shows us about joy, which will serve as foundational truths for this series of articles. Because many of us have forgotten what joy is like, or don’t even realize we’ve lost it. So what does scripture promise, and how are we going to realize its promises?

 Natural (Supernatural) Joy in Everyday Life

Natural (Supernatural) Joy

Joy Is Natural

Joyfulness is a response. It is both something we are given, and something that is cultivated in us. Joy is what settles deep and spills out as we come face to face with the spiritual reality of our deliverance (1 Samuel 2:1), echoing the rejoicing expressed in heaven at the salvation of each believer (Luke 15:7).  

Numerous words in Scripture translate as “joy”, including:

  •  ἀγαλλίασις (agalliasis) – exultation, exuberant joy
  • χαρά (chara) – joy, delight, gladness
  • חֶדְוָה (chedvah) – joy, rejoicing
  • שָׂשׂוֹן (sason) – exultation, rejoicing
  • שִׂמְחָה (simchah) – joy, gladness, mirth

Joy is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Hebrew or Greek, each of these point to a variety of root words, and appear in different forms. But each one points to the responsive nature of joy. Among many other things, our joy may be in response to God’s presence (Psalm 16:11), strength (Psalm 21:1), salvation (Psalm 51:12, Isaiah 12:3), or favor (Psalm 30:5). It can be in response to his provision (Ecclesiastes 9:7, Luke 1:14), protection (Isaiah 35:10), family (Acts 2:46), Son (Hebrews 1:9), purification (Jude 1:24), or his Word (Isaiah 52:12).

The undergirding essence of all of these joyful reactions is exuberance. In each case, joy sort of explodes, unable to be contained. This is in stark contrast to the kind of anemic, sedate joy described by many Christians, which is often separated entirely from emotions. Our emotions absolutely are intertwined with natural, responsive joy. If we aren’t experiencing exuberant joy in response to all that God is, perhaps our joy is not yet natural.

Joy is a natural response to the undeserved & unexplainable activity of God in our lives. Click To Tweet
Joy is Supernatural

Joy is only natural to people whose nature is being transformed, because our actual nature is corrupted by sin (Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 2:3). Without Christ, we are turned inward, blind to God, and unable to respond to Him. We cannot experience true joy. We need the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit to be truly joyful.

The one who has received God’s incredible gift of grace has come alive. Now, we are gardens to be cultivated by the indwelling Spirit of God. We are rich earth to be tilled, seeded, watered, and tended, ultimately on a trajectory towards Christlikeness.

Joy is second in the list of fruit named in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5:22). He says joy is one of the things that grows naturally in the person who has nailed his or her fleshly desires to the cross of Christ. And the gentle cultivation of the Spirit towards the things of God and away from our former passions yields fruit that is alive and growing, colorful and healthy.

As we partner with the Garden-keeper, our joy becomes vibrant, noticeable, and unable to be contained! We can count on it to flourish when roots are dug deep in faith.

Assurance is the fruit that grows out of the root of faith. (Stephen Charnock)

Cultivating Natural (Supernatural) Joy

So what do we do if our joy has faded? Is there hope for the Jesus follower who just can’t seem to find joy in life anymore? I think there is! If  joy is a natural response to the undeserved and unexplainable activity of God in our lives, but we are struggling to feel it, perhaps we have lost sight of Him. Maybe in the hectic nature of our schedules, the kind of disappointments life seems to deliver, or the treacherous path of the unexpected, we have diverted our eyes. Perhaps former desires have crept back in and we have stopped co-operating with the Tender of our garden, so we are no longer flourishing and producing the fruit of joy. Allow the soil to be cultivated again.

1. Decide (choose)

After Jesus’ baptism and subsequent 40 days in the wilderness, he began his public ministry by opening the scroll and reading from Isaiah, the prophet. Isaiah’s prophecy, in full, had contained promises that Jesus would comfort those who grieve, replacing their sadness with the oil of joy and their despair with a garment of praise (Isaiah 61). Our first step in receiving the oil of joy where it has drained is in simply choosing to believe that Jesus has come to give it to us. We must decide to pursue it again. Jesus is the only one who can provide what we’ve lost. Do we really believe that? 

If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere. (Billy Sunday)

Dear worn out, discouraged, joy-seeking reader, may today be the day you decide whether Jesus meant what he said. Don’t leak anymore! Cup your hands to receive his oil of joy.

2. Renew (fill)

In the article 6 Joy Scriptures to Memorize this Month, I wrote about Paul’s encouragement that we renew our minds in the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2). He said it will help us not to conform to the {joyless} patterns of the world. We tend to see everything through the lens of whatever we think about most. So God has given us his Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), and it is his Word that is true (Psalm 33:4). It is alive and active, and has the power to  expose our innermost thoughts and desires (Hebrews 4:12). 

Even today, you can make a plan to search his Word, to meditate on it, memorize it, and to allow it to begin to knit itself into the fabric of your being. As you do, your oneness with God will move you towards complete joy (1 John 1:4). Decide today to let God minister to your weary soul. Let it renew your mind and change your perspective. Fill up!

3. Praise (pour)

Filling up necessitates pouring out; jars that are full can’t help but spill over. Exuberance characterizes authentic joy, so make the choice today to start letting it out. Actively put on the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness. Thank God, speak of him, sing of him, share his goodness with others. Look for #joysightings around you, and document them in photos, journals, and conversations. I guarantee that sharing out loud with God and with others about your gratitude for his goodness and grace will simultaneously fill you with even more joy, because gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. This is a waterfall that replenishes itself as it pours! 

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. (Melody Beattie)

 

Decide, Renew, and Praise

These three things will help the tired traveller begin to re-discover natural (supernatural) joy in his or her everyday life. Here is a free printable to help you start this journey of rediscovery. Jesus promises us natural (supernatural) joy. We can live it out loud! Will you join me?

Natural (Supernatural) Joy Printable

In the comments below, let us know how you are rediscovering natural (supernatural) joy!

Elizabeth Joy

What Joy Looks Like: And Other Places Joy Lives

Joy Language

It has been ten weeks since I launched  Joy Let Loose, and I’m so thankful for reader engagement so far! The journey to the place that joy lives, so it spills out and impacts people around us is one so many of us crave, and it is possible through Jesus Christ. Our God is a joy-giver!

At this ten week point, I re-assessed to make sure I’m on track with my writing to convey what I intend to. I decided to run a word search through Wordle to get a visual representation of what we have been thinking about over the last ten weeks together. I was pleased with the results, and affirmed that I have been remaining in the intended lane for this blog.

 

Visual Joy and Other Places it Lives
The Focus of Joy Let Loose
Other Places Joy Lives

Thankfully,  joy is more than simply the subject of my blog. It is something I am contending for in all areas of my life. I am thankful to have opportunity to write for other venues as well, lending my voice to different aspects of life. At the end of February, one of my articles appeared with Annesley Writers, whose monthly theme was “Beauty”. I found it a challenge to write this article because it sits so close to home, and is something I tend to keep in the shadows.

You see, gains and losses have been a pattern for my whole life as I’ve struggled to be… enough. Malicious, the lie taunts me with forked tongue and tempts me to trust its razor sharp voice as it slices me open again and again. You are fat. You are ugly. You are less than. Tears sting and salt snakes its way down my cheeks and the familiar ache creeps into my jaw.

Head on over to Annesley to read this article, Steel. While you are there, please browse other authors’ writings. Because you will find that joy lives there!

Steel, the Quest for Beauty

 

Teaching Worship

Next week I have the opportunity to teach a three-day intensive course about worship to people currently pursuing ordination. This is another place  joy lives for me. After all, I love the discoveries people make when they dig deep in to the theology and philosophy of corporate worship, and begin to see our patterns of worship inside the larger context of God’s Story. We need to be reminded again and again of God’s faithfulness through all of time. William White says, “We are a forgetful people. We need storytellers. We need someone to lay the drama of God’s love before us. We need to be reminded of the uncommon grace of God.:

We need to be reminded of the uncommon grace of God. Click To Tweet

Please pray for me and for the students I teach. Because I want God to be visible, and celebrated for all of His goodness?

Where Your Joy Lives

Some of you have been faithful readers for the last ten weeks. You’ve taken the Morning Joy Challenge, contributed ideas of Family Traditions, and begun praying the morning prayers, or memorizing Joy Scriptures. Thank you for coming along with me! Others may have stumbled on this post through Pinterest or through a variety of blogging groups I belong to. Regardless how you got here, you are on your own journey, and I’m confident it includes a desire for  joy. God has made us to discover His joy, and let it loose! While I’m busy finalizing my teaching curriculum, and then pouring out to ministry students next week, I would love to hear from you!

Please Let Me Know!
  • What aspects of joy are you focusing on in your life?
  • Are there questions about the joy journey that I can address in upcoming posts?
  • Will you share your living joy testimony with our readers at  Joy Let Loose?

Please add your voice to the comments below. I will be eager to respond!

Elizabeth Joy

 

6 Joy Scriptures to Memorize This Month: Renewing My Mind

I’m setting a new goal with 6 joy scriptures to memorize this month to renew my mind. This week has been crazy. Just nuts. And my mind has been all over the place. (All over the place is not a good place.) So today I know I need to be extra intentional to focus and fill my mind with good things. On the journey toward  joy a primary area to be proactive is in rearranging my thinking. But I simply can’t do that on my own.

Do Not Conform 

Paul tells us not to conform to the pattern of this world – not to copy its behavior and customs – but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  We tend to think about whatever we fill our minds with. So, how do we renew our minds?

We tend to think about whatever we fill our minds with. Click To Tweet

If we take in a lot of crime drama, we may find we tend to be frightful and suspicious. When we take in a lot of sexualized music or video, we may find we tend to be lustful. And if we read or listen to a lot of profanity, don’t be surprised if our thoughts – and then our words – become (*ahem*) colorful.

Renew Your Mind

But if we take in an abundance of Scripture, I think we’ll find we tend to encounter the world in a Christlike way. Philippians 4:8 describes exactly what kinds of things are worthy of our thoughts. 

 

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8)

 

So, on this journey toward  joy, I’ve decided on 6 joy scriptures to memorize this month in order to renew my mind. And I’m confident that these three verses from the Psalms and three from the New Testament will fuel me for  joy.

Would you join me on this journey? Here is a free resource I created to help us all jump in!

6 Joy Scriptures to Memorize This Month: Renew My Mind

 

Another resource that has helped me in the past is Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word Day by Day. She helps to pinpoint specific passages that focus our daily attention in a devotional format.

What is your plan to renew your mind? Share your journey in the comments below!

Elizabeth Joy

What Pixar’s Sadness Teaches About Joy (And What Scripture Says)

Sadness

It is ironic to me that in a season where God has me on a joy journey I would feel so much sadness. Grieving another loss of community, a loss of professional identity, the tumultuous transition for two teenagers to our new normal, the impacts of moving on our marriage and family overall, and perhaps even some emotional shifts relative to my age, I think I’ve been sad more than I’ve been happy over the last 5 months.  Did God call me to joy last summer because He knew what sorrow lay ahead for me? Or is the sorrow an intrinsic part of the joy journey? I’ve wondered about joy and sadness. Are they partners or nemeses? Playmates or enemies?

Maybe it’s just like God to make growth so multi-dimensional.

Pacifiers and jolly-jumpers and 22-minute kids’ videos to buy a little time for a shower seem a thing of the distant past to me now, though they seemed to occupy so much space and attention for those younger parent years. (We used to relate the length of car rides to the length of VeggieTales videos to help our children have some perspective on just how much longer we would be driving.)

All three of my incredible kids are now full fledged teenagers, and understand things much more complex than Bob and Larry, but we still enjoy being drawn in to the magic of the occasional animated movie from time to time. The ones that rise to the top of the list are those like “Megamind” with good character development and enough quick, intelligent banter to maintain parents’ intrigue while still entertaining youngsters. You know the kind: the ones that make an awesome family movie night, but for which you might grab a bowl of popcorn, even when there aren’t children in the room.

Inside Out

One such movie is Pixar’s “Inside Out”, released in 2015. It tells the tale of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley whose parents embark on a new family adventure, moving them from the Midwest to the West Coast. In the creative forefront of this film are characters built around five key emotions that make Riley tick: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Since she is young, her emotions are still relatively simplistic. These emotions essentially run Riley’s control center, and we get to be privy to what’s going on on the inside as they interact. It doesn’t go unnoticed to me that Riley’s adventure with joy and sadness surrounds a huge life transition…

What Pixar's Sadness Teaches About Joy

While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie for its entertainment value alone, as I’ve considered joy-journeying, I’ve thought more about the ideas this movie represents. Movies have the inherent ability to teach us and form our thinking (perhaps without us realizing it), so what does this popular movie teach us about joy? And does Scripture support or negate these ideas? I’ve pulled out four key points.

  Joy and happiness are synonymous

It was interesting to me that the pleasant emotion depicted in this movie was dubbed “joy”, rather than “happiness”. Joy is a perky, optimistic little character, bent on keeping Riley happy at all times. She is cheerful and chipper, and intent on her mission to permeate Riley’s present days and past memories with happiness. Honestly, at first I recoiled a little bit that this emotion was named Joy. Then I had to question myself why I felt that way.

Christians often separate the words joy and happiness. Happiness is considered a fleeting emotion, entirely dependent on situations that surround us. It is what we feel when things go well, and we are secure. But, precariously balanced on those good circumstances, happiness is easily dampened when situations take a turn for the worse. Juxtaposed against that is joy. Joy is thought not to be an emotion, but that which abides within us as unshakeable confidence as it is tethered to our hope in Christ.

Tied together…

I believe wholeheartedly that Scripture teaches us that our joy is tethered to our hope in Christ (Romans 15:13; 1 Peter 1:8-9). I can follow it through to see that joy can be steadfast, even when pleasant emotions are compromised by trial (James 1:2-3; Phil. 1:12-20). But I can’t hold fast to the idea that joy and happiness are unrelated or opposites of each other. There are too many places in Scripture where “joy” and “happiness” are tied closely together:

Scripture:

Jeremiah 31:13 I will turn their mourning into joy . . . and bring happiness out of grief.

Psalm 92:4  You, O Lord, have made me happy by your work. I will sing for joy because of what you have done. 

Psalm 68:3  But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

The separation of joy and happiness is artificial at best, a pendulum swing in response to the fear of searching for happiness in ungodly things, maybe. God is the Source of happiness to all people. He has imprinted each person with longing for joy, so we’ll search for Him and find our happiness there.

God has imprinted us with longing for joy, so we'll search for Him & find our happiness there. Click To Tweet

Incarnated Joy

As incarnated beings, our faith permeates us intellectually, spiritually, physically and emotionally.  And to the believer, it is God’s joy that permeates us, strengthening us for all we face in this world.  I would hazard a guess that the people we each know who are the epitome of joy have something in common: they are generally very happy. How very drab and unfortunate it would be to live a life undergirded by hope in Christ, but to not experience it in our physical bodies and our emotions. How incomplete.

Riley’s world turned upside down. Her family’s new venture took her away from all she knew and loved. In addition to the deep loss of relocation, there are mis-haps along the way:  lost belongings, a dilapidated new house, and the new school make Riley long for the comfort of familiar. The happenings that surround her threaten her joy, both her abiding sense of confidence and her happy, contended feelings. 

Joy deepens with the acknowledgement and experience of sadness

Joy stays busy trying to guarantee that Riley doesn’t experience any sadness. She panics when “Sadness” accidentally touches a memory, turning it to a melancholy one. She does not want her girl to know anything of heartache, and tries to protect her from it at all times. Incidentally, it is partly Joy’s antics that set her and Sadness out on the difficult journey they face together through much of the movie. As they travel and problem solve together, Sadness sometimes expresses herself, and sometimes wants to quit, and Joy eventually begins to finally see her friend’s value.

Sorrow paves the way for Joy

Scripture tells us that people who sow in tears will reap in songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:5-6). It is as if the sorrow paves the way for joy to come. Instead of containing, avoiding, or ignoring it, experiencing sadness prepares us for the harvest of joy to follow.  In Spurgeon’s sermon no 1027, he highlighted how precious holy sorrow is before God. He went on to clarify that this sorrow does not keep us from godly joy. 

Poet Kahlil Gibran wrote, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” The wounds and rivulets of grief and sorrow become channels for God’s gracious joy to flow. 

 

On Joy and Sorrow, Kahlil Gibran

God meets us in our sorrow, allowing us to experience it, and He is faithful to nurture and grow tender joy. In fact, it is His joy that strengthens us in our trials (Neh. 8:10). Our weeping may last for a night, but shouts of rejoicing come in the morning.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. -K. Gibran Click To Tweet

Sadness is vital for self-awareness and the formation of relationships

Moving is just plain tough. There’s grief all wrapped up inside the change, and it’s not necessarily easy to untangle emotions that surround it. Riley’s first night in her new home feels so lonely. Her mom, in an effort to encourage her, commends Riley for keeping a happy face on throughout the process. Inadvertently, this discourages her daughter from acknowledging or sharing her sadness. In a different scene, when Riley is in a turmoil because Anger, Disgust and Fear are alone at the helm, Riley’s father snaps at her, once again invalidating Riley’s jumbled emotions.  

It is important to validate emotions. Otherwise, confusion can create uncertainty about what is real and what isn’t. Poor Riley’s parents just wanted her to be happy, and didn’t realize they were denying the legitimacy of her sadness. She ended up running away because she did not know how to handle her chaotic feelings.

Thankfully, it is at this point that Sadness has her hero moment. She takes control, and her touch turns core memories blue. With sorrow permeating Riley’s core memories, she is finally able to fall apart and tell her parents all of the things she misses about home. Because Joy gave way to Sadness, Riley was able to become aware of her own feelings, and articulate them to her parents. Finally realizing what their daughter was going through, they validated her by listening and sharing their own feelings. Sadness strengthened their relationship.

 

Sadness is meant to be shared

Joy tried to confine Sadness. She sent her away to read mind manuals, and she drew a circle instructing poor Sadness not to step outside of it. But Sadness could not be confined. When Riley tried to hide her sadness from her parents, she created a barrier between her and them. Self-protection is natural, I think, but it keeps us from closeness in relationships that is so important. Rather than hiding our brokenness we need to share it with others. In her book The Broken WayAnn Voskamp writes, “Withness breaks brokenness.”  

Withness breaks brokenness. – Ann Voskamp

When Riley’s core memory turned sad, and she shared it with her parents, it actually brought them closer to her because they were with her, and could be empathetic.

Scripture says that those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted (Matt 5:4). Mourning is such an intense grief that there is no hiding it inside; it must come out; it must reach to others. Sadness needs to have permission to be touched, shared, and felt by those who can then become comforters. Jesus shared the bread and the cup, foreshadowing His broken body and shed blood. He gave them to His disciples to bring fully into themselves. We are to carry others’ brokenness with them.

We are to carry others' brokenness with them. Click To Tweet

Joy and Sadness

At the climax of Inside Out, Joy and Sadness were working together. Riley cried and smiled at the same time, creating a brand new core memory. It wasn’t just happy, and it wasn’t just sad…it was a multi-dimensional, much richer memory because Joy gave way to Sadness, and sadness paved the way for joy.

John 16:20  Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.

 

How about you?

Have you experienced joy giving way to sadness, and sadness paving the way to joy? Do you think sadness is a key player in the journey toward joy?

Comment below! I would love to hear your stories.

 

Elizabeth Joy

Why We Need to Know if We Are Starving For Joy

We need to know if we are starving for joy. One of the other places I write is Seedbed’s Worship Design Collective, where worship leaders encourage others who slug it out in the trenches of the Church, week in and week out. Several months ago, as I was discovering God calling me to a new journey, I wrote an article for the collective about seven things Scripture shows us about   joy. Though the original article was addressed specifically to worship leaders, the truths within are broadly applicable, and will serve as the foundation for upcoming posts on  Joy Let Loose. We absolutely must discover if we are starving for joy.

Why We Need to Know if We are Starving For joy

 

Starving for Joy:  June 7, 2016

 Just a few short days ago, Chewbacca went viral as Candice Payne, clad in his toy mask, exploded on the Internet. In a matter of just 48 hours, her live Facebook video skyrocketed to nearly 150 million views, as people belly laughed it across the world. Just two days in, she had already appeared with numerous internationally acclaimed networks and personalities. What is it that this lady—a fellow worship leader—demonstrated, alone in her car after a trip to Kohl’s, that we all loved so much? And what is it that we worship leaders can glean from Candice bursting into our lives? 

We hunger for  joy.

150 million views of a gleeful woman in a mask is a good indicator that people are hungry; people watched and shared Candice’s video because her evident joy sparked something in them. If this is true, then I would suggest that the people who file into our sanctuaries on weekend days and nights are similarly hungry. They long to know joy, but they are looking to others—perhaps to us—to provide it.  Continue reading “Why We Need to Know if We Are Starving For Joy”