MsDora, a former teacher and Christian counselor, presents practical Scriptural principles for joyful everyday living.
Author's Note: Originally addressed to women, this article includes principles which may benefit men.
What makes some women cry and complain about tough times while others sing their way through? How do we maintain our joy in the midst of life’s pressures? The answer is more than a list of dos and don’ts. It depends primarily on who we are—what we’re made of. Eleanor Roosevelt said it this way: “A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”
The Christian aid for the life that remains positive, poised and peaceful under pressure is found in Galatians Chapter 5: 22, 23. The text lists effective, strengthening qualities which God’s Spirit produces in us, the believers. It is He who initiates and fortifies our joy when we surrender to Him our total being—our thoughts, attitudes, dreams, focus, and even our fight.
The ingredients of the Spirit’s power are often referred to as the Fruit of the Spirit—a singular fruit consisting of nine segments, with nutrients which overlap to form a synergy blend. Joy is one segment, and those who cherish it will experience its enhancement when they consume the entire fruit. See how that works in three main aspects of our lives.
The first three segments—love, joy and peace—show up in our disposition. They grow out of our relationship with God, and we nurture them through affirmations, meditation, prayer and practice. The woman who habitually exhibits a loving, joyful, peaceful mood is likely to smile her way through the tough times. It’s not that she is unaware of the problem, but that her stable mood feeds her confidence and her courage.
“Love never gives up … and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:8). “Nor can rivers drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:7). Love motivates the woman to surmount life’s struggles, to perform with excellence in her roles as mother, nurturer, manager, helper, guide and companion.
“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). “A cheerful [joyful] heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). Joy is “especially important,” states Neuroscientist Rick Hanson, “when you’re facing challenges at any scale, from worries about your child to alarm about your world.”
“Peace comes not from the absence of trouble but from the presence of God” (MacLaren). So the Christian is empowered by promises like the one Christ made in John 14:27: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
Find a woman who cultivates a godly disposition rooted in positive emotions of love, joy and peace, and we will find a woman of strength and poise standing tall in the toughest of times. See a group of like-minded women supporting each other when the going gets rough, and we will see a happy, productive, resilient community.
We display the second triad of segments —patience, kindness, goodness—in our interactions. The peace-loving Christian woman is able to protect her joy in harmonious as well as hostile situations. Her dealings match her disposition, even when her problems are caused by others.
“We prove ourselves by our … patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love” (2 Corinthians 6:6). When an irresponsible child messes up the tenth time, and a mother practices patience; when an angry husband expects retaliation but receives kindness instead; the woman proves that she is focused on keeping her joy intact.
“Show others the goodness of God” (1 Peter 2:9). Do we show the goodness of God when we discriminate, when we humiliate or defraud other people? So, we choose to do good. When individuals evaluate our dealings with them, we want them to say, “That’s good,” or better still, “God is good.”
When our interactions with others become a reason for them to praise God, our joy multiplies.
The final triad of segments—faithfulness, humility, self-control—display themselves in our general conduct. It is understandable if a woman loses her pleasant disposition and her willingness to be kind to others during and after tough challenges like severe illness, divorce, malicious accusations, bankruptcy, disaster, death of a loved one. But the woman who endures with her joy and praise intact becomes a symbol of graceful strength.
“Always act in the fear of the Lord, with faithfulness and an undivided heart” (2 Chronicles 19:9). We coordinate our Christian walk and talk through fidelity in our relationships, excellent performances in our duties, and accountability for resources entrusted to us. The practice of faithfulness to God and man feeds our sense of joy.
“With humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11;12). “Humility precedes honor” (15:33). “Show true humility to everyone” (Titus 3:2). For the Christian woman, that means respecting, listening to, and placing value on everyone including her subordinates, in the same way that she expects them to honor her. She makes them happy; they reciprocate and joy abounds.
“Prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control (1 Peter 1:13). In tough times, unmindful individuals allow the circumstances to control them. They overwork, overeat, overspend, overindulge in cheap thrills in their efforts to fill the void created by distress and loss. Then, they experience guilt instead of joy. It is different for Christians who maintain positive emotions, which according to Dr. Hanson, “steady the mind” and “can pull us out of…ordinary routines, stresses, disappointments, and frustrations…In a word, Joy.”
We end where we started with the disposition. Each segment is intricately linked. The entire fruit, resident within the believer and empowered by God's Spirit is the reason that we are able to maintain our joy, even in tough times.
We focus on being, more than doing, but joy thrives on expression. Here are a few simple suggestions for maintaining joy in each of the three life aspects we discussed.
Sing along (and dance) with recorded praise music;
Read aloud some favorite psalms of gratitude to God;
Memorize and repeat affirmations of joy.
Tell joyful stories—about answered prayers, unexpected blessings etc.;
Celebrate friendships, milestones, victories;
Laugh long and loud at the Muppets, memories, mix-ups (which do not embarrass anyone).
See and share the positive in situations around you;
Volunteer caregiving, mentoring, hospitality;
Be generous with happy, honest compliments.
Hanson, Ph. D.; Welcome Joy, Psychology Today, March 26, 2018
MacLaren's Expositions, Commentary on Galatians 5: 22,23, Bible Hub, Copyright 2004 - 2020 by Bible Hub
Scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation.
© 2020 Dora Weithers