How do you picture joy? After turning in my manuscript for my newest book, Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, I thought I would create some lovely photos with inspiring verses on them. I opened my graphics AP and typed in “JOY.” What I anticipated seeing were images of giggling children, cozy families, faces of smiling friends, maybe some inspiring nature shots, breathtaking sunsets or perhaps a strong, fit person reaching the pinnacle of a mountain top. NOPE. What I saw were pictures of sugary desserts: cookies, cupcakes, seven-layer chocolate cakes, ices cream, cheesecake—more and more sugar!
Righteous indignation rose up within me. “Satan, you are such a LIAR! That is not JOY. These foods lead to bondage and brokenness. God wants to give us JOY!” Phil 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. (Phil 4:4 ESV) To rejoice is a verb, an action, we take to be favorably disposed to joy and gladness. But how does one choose joy, especially when feeling depressed or, discouraged? How can we “choose joy” in our wellness journey?
God promises to show us the path to joy: You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. (Psalm 16:11)
Look UP: Go on a joy hunt. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” When I began my wellness journey, my life was in crisis because of a forced job change accompanied with both my husband and I getting bad news from our doctors as a result of too many years burning the candle at both ends. I gathered up an extensive list of verses on joy. I printed them, studied them, memorized them, prayed them, posted them on sticky notes on my mirror, on my computer, and I hung them as art around my home. I needed to soak in joy in order to hang on to joy. I discovered that this inner decision to have a heaven-hearted focus invigorated me. Joy motivated me to be more active—I found myself dancing, running, and most recently, my husband snapped a photo of me jumping for joy!
Look BACK: Retrace God’s faithfulness in your life. I keep a JOY JOURNAL, a scrapbook of sorts that records prayers and praises. Using colorful pens, write verses of peace, hope, love, and joy around each photo or request. You might want to download a Prayer and Praise Page or the Radiating Joy bullet journal page to record moments of joy. As you look back at God’s faithfulness, it motivates you to make wise food and health choices for your future. For me, banking on God’s faithful character, through First Place, I have lost more than 50 pounds, and I am happier, healthier than I was 20 years ago.
Look OUT: Don’t go through tough times alone. Take a prayer walk with friends several times a week. PRAY the verses and PRAISE God for His faithful character— rejoice and revel in the promise that whatever you need to live free and well, the great “I am” is the answer. Plus, exercise accompanied with the hope found in scripture releases happy endorphins, so you gain hope and joy! Prayer-walking is a three-fold blessing, you get closer to God, to your friend—and thinner!
Look AHEAD: On her 70th birthday, I asked a cheery mentor who had overcome many trials and created a path of hope after the death of her spouse, “How do you hold on to joy?”
She replied, “Always plan something to look forward to.” First Place encourages us to have a sustaining motivation: the ability to keep up with your kids, teens or grandkids; being at graduations and weddings; Enjoying those big marriage moments like our upcoming 40th wedding anniversary.
Pay attention to what brings you moments of personal joy, reprioritize to place more time for these healthy choices in your life, and when they happen, pause and praise God—then jump for joy!
Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of 48 books, including her newest bestseller, Discovering Joy in Philippians. She and her husband, Bill, run Love-Wise ministry, and Pam is a leader of a Virtual First Place class. When she isn’t working at coaching, writing and speaking, you will find her with her family, including 5 grandkids; walking the beach, or kayaking near her live-aboard boat docked in Southern California. Click here to access the items mentioned in this blog and other free resources to cultivate joy.