Where Do You Find Your Joy? … This weekend musing got me thinking about a few days off and what should we be out doing? No work for a few days, so it’s time to do…what? For a lot of us, we pursue something that gives us joy, something we love to participate in or do. Our hope is that is brings us a time of joy and happiness before we go back to the “weekly slog” of our lives.

The word ‘joy’ is 3 letters that really are a power-house. What is joy? Where do we get it? Why is it so hard to find joy and be joyful? Perhaps joy eludes us because we search for joyous fulfillment in the wrong places. We think “this is what will give me joy, make me happy” but it doesn’t, it is just a ‘smoke and mirrors’ illusion that our secular society gets sucked into so easily.

Have you ever met someone so down and out and yet they have an incredible joy? I know I have. Actually, a few years ago I shared in a devotion about our friend Helen who lived in abject poverty yet she always had a smile. Rarely did she have two nickels to rub together so she would walk to church every single week, never missed it (especially the potlucks!).

One time I asked her where she got her joy (to me, her life was just so tough). Helen, a delightful African-American lady at 6’ tall and almost as wide, put her huge hands on her hips and seriously looked right into my eyes saying: “Cyndy, you are a chaplain and you don’t know where joy comes from? OK girl, we need to talk.” When Helen says you’re going to talk, you don’t refuse—ever, so talk we did and she made my day one that was filled with joy!

Helen was right, though, we seek joy in all kinds of places but joy is gift from God and only from God. The Psalmist said it best (16:11 –The Voice)

“You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life.
As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending,
and I know true joy and contentment.”

So where or what or who do you seek after to find joy in your life? Here’s a funny but true story that is spot-on for those of us in a joy-search. It’s chuckle, but it’s also a great example of how we go after things that don’t give us joy or pleasure at all!

One night a well-known writer had a thief break into his apartment. Trying not to wake anyone, he tried to quietly pick the lock on the writer’s desk which was in an extension off of the bedroom (duh). The try at quietness didn’t work and suddenly a burst of laughter came from the bedroom where the writer was watching the thief. The thief was so startled he fell over the dresser and landed on his butt. Somewhat angry and also embarrassed, the thief shouted out “Why are you laughing?” The writer answered with a chuckle, “I’m laughing at the dumb risk you’re taking to find money in my desk in the middle of the night when I can’t even find it there during the day!”

Ah, is that so true of each of us? Let’s try this, it will bring us pleasure, let’s go there, it will be better than here, let’s…you fill in your own sentence…either way, we quickly realize that the “grass is not always greener on the other side.” Like the thief, we try all kinds of things and end up going nowhere and the joy we seek has not been found. After all this seeking and getting nowhere, we should realize that “real and lasting joy simply can’t be found in the things of the world!”

Joy is not found anywhere but in God alone. It is there we find all the joy and fulfillment we seek. Our relationship with Jesus can be our “24/7 joy-go-to” every day if we allow it. Of course, that means the joy the Lord gives us is what we embrace instead of thinking there is something else that is much better.

Happiness we can find, but it never lasts. God’s gift of joy lasts—even in the toughest slogs of our lives. Like Helen, we can’t always change our situation, our bank account, our crazy families/relationships, health issues, etc., but we can change our attitude!

Embracing the words of David the Psalmist and truly believing that God directs our paths and leads us to a beautiful life with the joy we desire and the contentment we need—here on earth and to eternity—now that is the way to start and end each day. I can already hear Helen shouting: AMEN, sister, now you got it, AMEN!!