Our family theme for the month of February is JOY!. (Somehow it doesn't feel right to type that word in lower case letters. That exclamation point seems to jump out there unbidden, too.)
We're thinking about what real JOY looks like and what we can do to live it.
JOY is a command, not an option. Paul tells us to "Rejoice always" (I Thess. 5:16). But how do we possibly do that, especially in the midst of trials and during the depressing month of February? Here are some of the things we're doing:
- We're praying for JOY for one another
- We've given permission to everyone to (gently) remind others when they slip into being a Gloomy Toomy
- We have scripture reminders on the chalkboards in our house
- Even though JOY is not a synonym for pleasure, some good old merriment can be helpful. Today Kristen, 23, came for a visit, and she led her sisters and I in a rollicking lunch time dance session.
- We're taking a look each day at one way to increase in JOY! These are from a series of old booklets called Character Builders by Ron and Rebekah Coriell. I thought their list was helpful, so I wrote the references on little slips of paper and put them in a jar to be used one per day.
Twenty Ways to Increase in JOY!
1. Confess known sin. Psalms 51:7, 8, 12; 16:11
2. Be obedient to God. John 15:10,11
3. Read God's Word. Jeremiah 15:16
4. Become a soul winner. Psalms 126:6
5. Control anger; develop meekness. Isaiah 19:19
6. Meditate before sleep. Psalm 63:5,6
7. Trust God. Psalm 5:11
8. Fear God. Psalm 16:7-9
9. Do right and hate wickedness. Psalm 45:7; 118:15
10. Be humble. Psalm 34:2
11. Seek the Lord. Psalm 40:16
12. Sing unto God. Psalm 71:23
13. Be thankful. Psalm 95:2
14. Pray a psalm back to God. Psalm 95:2
15. Serve the Lord. Psalm 100:2
16. Meditate on Christ. Psalm 104:34
17. Study heroes of the faith. Psalm 107:41-43. (Fanny Crosby is a good one in seeing someone who lived joyfully despite great difficulties.)
18. Write down God's mercy. Psalm 90:14,15
19. Recognize trials as joy. James 1:2
20. Commit your day to God. Psalm 118:24
Sometimes I have been flummoxed when someone blithely says, "The joy of the Lord is your strength," as they try to encourage me to find joy in time of suffering. It sounds good, and is true, but how do I live it? Recently I read a powerful sermon by Charles Spurgeon on what it means to pray continually (I Thes. 5:17). In the introduction he notes how that injunction is sandwiched between the one to rejoice always and the one to give thanks in all circumstances. Here are Spurgeon's very helpful words showing how prayer and joy are interrelated:
Observe what it follows. It comes immediately after the precept, "Rejoice evermore;" as if that command had somewhat staggered the reader, and made him ask "How can I always rejoice?" and, therefore, the apostle appended as answer, "Always pray." The more praying the more rejoicing. Prayer gives a channel to the pent-up sorrows of the soul, they flow away, and in their stead streams of sacred delight pour into the heart. At the same time the more rejoicing the more praying; when the heart is in a quiet condition, and full of joy in the Lord, then also will it be sure to draw nigh unto the Lord in worship. Holy joy and prayer act and react upon each other.
You want JOY!? Then pray without ceasing.