Over the last year and a half I’ve been wrestling with a difficult diagnosis. It’s brought me to my knees in pain, anguish, and suffering. Yet I’ve chosen to Fight Back with Joy. It’s been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but I’ve been discovering that more than whimsy, joy is the weaponry we use to fight life’s battles.
Rather than living like a dark rain cloud, as children of God, we’re meant to cheer our way through the streets heralding the arrival of God’s kingdom, pounding at door of every human heart with hilarity and celebration until the last prodigal crosses heaven’s threshold, the last hardened heart is rend, and the last older brother finally plucks his fingers from his ears.
1. Smile at the people you see today. A recent study found that smiling can increase our happiness level and make us more productive, but the grin must be genuine. Start in your own home. Smile at your roommate. Your spouse. Your kids. Allow your eyes to light up, your hidden teeth to show. Look each person in the eyes. Remember that you’re beaming the joy of God to them. You’re reflecting the delight of your Heavenly Father.
2. Let the laughter rip. God wired your body to benefit from laughter. A good old-fashioned giggle releases chemicals in your brain that equip your body to better handle stress and pain. Whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, a quiet person or more of the party-pants type, you can begin laughing more.
Begin making a laugh list today. Who are your favorite comedians? What televisions shows make you laugh the hardest? Who in your life reminds you not to take yourself or life too seriously? Be intentional about spending time with lighthearted people and good clean comedy that help your body heal. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (NLT).
3. Hum, sing, or belt out a song. In Philippians 4:4, the apostle Paul instructs us: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (NIV)”
Much like laughter, God designed singing to have a profound physiological response within us. When we sing, our bodies release endorphins and oxytocin which is known to help relieve stress and alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression. Turn up the radio. Select your favorite song on your iPod. Pull out a timeless CD with some of your favorite worship songs. Allow God’s joy to flow in and through you.
4. Discover the joy that waits in the mourning. Sometimes we lose our sense of joy because of a loss, hardship, crisis, or great adversity. Denying the pain often makes it worse. That’s why mourning is so important. The Psalms provide a model for mourning in the lament. Psalms 10, 13, 38, and 55 provide prime examples of processing grief with God. Consider writing your own lament to the Lord.
Begin with a few sentences describing what your feeling. Elaborate on the problem and its implications. Then pause to ask God his perspective on the situation. Re-word your complaint and frustration through the lens of how God revealed himself. Then write a concluding statement of who God is in the midst. Include a word of praise and close with a declaration of trust in God.
As you grieve and process pain, you’ll find joy reawakening in your heart in a deeper way.
5. Sometimes to get joy you’ve got to give it away. Write a note of blessing to someone you love. If you need a fresh infusion of joy, then bless someone else. Grab a notecard and start jotting down all the things you appreciate about the person. Feel the gratitude well up in your heart. Then, pop that notecard in the mail and spread the joy.
You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose your response. May you experience joy even in the midst of challenging times.
Margaret Feinberg is a popular speaker and author of Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears.
Publication date: January 6, 2015