How to Live with Joy

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Do you know how to live with joy? It might seem hard with all that’s going on around the world. But joy finds its basis not in our circumstances, but in a relationship with God, the One who never changes. He is our peace, and he is joy.

Brittney Moses, a Los Angeles-based writer and content creator—passionate about the intersection between faith, mental health, and wellness—has a degree is psychology and research from UCLA. Brittney’s popular blog advocates for wholehearted mental wellness for everyday living. We asked Brittney about how to live with joy. Check out her responses below.

How do you define joy?

BM: When I think of joy I describe it as allowing yourself to be fully present to receive and believe in the good that exists in your life—no matter how big or small. Biblically we see that joy is a sense of fullness and it’s life-giving, it’s replenishing. Joy is a form of praise, it fuels our strength, and is medicine for the soul (Psalm 16:11, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 71:23, Proverbs 17:22). Most of all it comes from the Lord.

We can have joy because our hope is in God’s faithfulness rather than our ever-changing circumstances. And when we cut ourselves off from fully experiencing joy, we rob ourselves of the same blessing that God delights in for our lives out of his abundant love for us. It doesn’t mean that life will be perfect. But when our joy comes from the Lord we can cling to the sovereign hope that supersedes our circumstances.

Why is sustainable joy so hard to abide in?

BM: Honestly, it can be hard to sustain our joy because we’re afraid of getting our hopes up for the things that may end up leaving us in pain or disappointment. It’s a protective defense mechanism to the point that we may bypass any sign of good in our lives at all. If we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable then we feel that the blows of life won’t be as bad when they come because part of us predicted them.

Some feel guilty for feeling joy because they don’t think they deserve it or maybe they’ve developed a theology centered on self-deprecation, and this couldn’t be further from what God intended for us. It’s estimated that the word “joy” appears in Scripture around 200 times, which reminds us that joy is an intended part of the human experience. 

The problem is that when you try to block out pain, sadness, and disappointment (natural happenstances of the human life) you also block out the other range of feelings like joy, love, connection, hope. Life is both and we have to trust that God is as faithful as he’s always been to walk with us through all of it.

What can rob us of joy?

Some things I think immediately rob our joy are overthinking, jumping to conclusions or assumptions, perfectionism, comparison, and really anything striving to control things we just simply can’t control. These things constantly keep our minds in the future or keep us living from a deficit by focusing so much on others while disconnecting from ourselves and the potential in the present moment. 

How can we stop the cycle of choosing foreboding instead of joy?

BM: I think we all have battled with a sense of foreboding in different seasons of our lives. In the case of anxiety, it may feel like a way of life. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, so it’s hard to see or experience the fullness of good things when they are happening. So it can be self-sabotaging.

But I think it’s also important to have grace for ourselves in realizing that when we continue these emotional cycles, even when they’re negative, the reason they exist is because they are serving us in some way. In the case of foreboding, it serves as a protective mechanism to be prepared at all times in case anything goes wrong. This is an understandable feeling when you’re been through a lot of unexpected hardship and pain that you want to avoid. 

But then we have to step back and reflect, Is this really serving my well-being overall? And is it realistic to build a wall of control around ourselves so thick in hopes that nothing unfortunate would ever happen to us? If it’s causing us to disconnect from ourselves, God, and others, or to sabotage relationships and good opportunities that could change our lives, then probably not. 

Renewing our joy is a perspective we wake up and practice every day. It’s a choice we make to take a step back and intentionally shift our thoughts in the moments we’re tested the most. It’s when we stop taking everything onto ourselves and redirect our hope and trust in God to make the most out of the unknown. We realize it doesn’t come down to what we know but Who we know and trust he will give us the strength to adapt to life with continued hope no matter the waves because he is our anchor.

What do you say to someone that is trying to get past the insecurity of comparison, which is the thief of joy?

BM: Comparison happens naturally, without thinking many times. If you’ve ever put down your phone feeling worse than you did when you first picked it up, then you’ve probably been there. Your thoughts toward yourself become more doubtful. You find yourself more frustrated. You begin to feel behind and discontent with your place in life. Feelings of admiration for this person become displaced envy. It’s all so implicit—a subtle takeover and arrest of your mind and spirit, stealing your contentment, your peace, and your sense of self. 

The truth is, no one has the full responsibility to make you feel anything. Our perspectives are mainly held by us and our state of mind or personal projections. The issue is inside us, not “out there,” where many times we overestimate others and underestimate ourselves.

In the world of social psychology, we understand that comparison is what we naturally do as humans to try and gauge how well we’re doing, maybe in our work, in our social circles, or just in life in general. The more ambiguous those markers are for us, the more we look to others to try and get a construct of what “success” may look like. The problem is, we culturally put so much importance on external factors rather than the internal factors that truly sustain us and speak to character and growth. We see this really play out through what we know as today’s social media highlight reels.

What does the Bible say about comparison?

BM: Scripture calls us to mark out a path for ourselves, to keep our eyes forward and not swerve to the right or the left, and to keep our feet from evil (Joshua 1:7, Proverbs 4:25-27). So God isn’t calling us to look upward, downward, right, or left. He calls us to look forward and to trust the plans that He has for us. 

Comparison, while normal, is counterproductive. Instead, try asking yourself: “What is it that’s drawing me to this person? Is it their work ethic, their willingness to take risks, their boldness of conviction, their mastery of skill?” Then consider how these may simply be areas you want to improve in. And that’s okay. Many times, we’re actually seeing qualities in others that we want to grow in ourselves or we may admire the way they carry out their skill but it’s not for us. In those times, we have to embrace our individual differences. They have their areas of strength and you are growing in your own. Learn to separate the two.

Thank you, Brittney, for that insight! For more content with Brittney, be sure to download the Abide app. Along with our library of 2,000+ meditations, we have more than 300 sleep stories to help you get the rest you need.

Take a moment for yourself and listen to the 2-minute version of this Abide Daily Meditation narrated by Brittney Moses.

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