For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. —Romans 1: 20-21, NKJV (emphasis added)
This past January, I charged the Outpost Ministries staff with a mission: by January 1, 2015, I want us to be the most joyful ministry in the Twin Cities. In our line of work of dealing with sexual and relational brokenness, joy can be difficult at times. We deal with people’s sin and pain on a daily basis. We see firsthand the negative impact a changing society is having on the next generation. We face persecution and constant spiritual warfare. But in all of this, scripture’s exhortation remains, My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials . . . (James 1:2).
Trials are certain, regardless of your line of work. Joy in the midst of these said trials takes some effort. It doesn’t come naturally. Joy must be intentionally embraced. We must cast off the negative thought patterns that so easily entangle us and choose to set our minds on things above. We must choose to walk in gratitude.
I am finding that gratitude is the doorway to joy. When people do not walk in thankfulness to God, their thoughts become foolish and their hearts become darkened, which is not very helpful in the midst of the trials of life! But those who choose gratitude are given clarity and light in the midst of the storm. When our hearts are overwhelmed, there is a Rock that is higher than us.
And with right perspective, we have joy. God is still on the throne, still in control and very close to the brokenhearted. God is a promise keeper. We can rest in His love. We can trust His ways. He does not leave; He does not forsake the ones He loves.
Negativity is exhausting. Joy is energizing. Negativity can make us sick. Joy heals our souls. Negativity is viewing the present circumstance with God out of the picture. Joy is seeing God with you in the midst of life’s ups and downs—an ever-present help in times of trouble.
For more joy in your life, try this exercise: for the next week, set aside three times each day to thank God for five minutes. You could do it breakfast, lunch and dinner. Write down what you are thankful for and declare it back to God. Or, to make it even more fun, sing it to God. Make up little songs of thanksgiving that you can carry with you throughout your day. You don’t have to be a singer; God loves a joyful noise! You could even shout your thankfulness to God. The point is to put on an attitude of gratitude.
This is spiritual warfare, as the enemy loves to keep us bound up in negative thought patterns. He loves to disempower us by stealing our joy. He loves to interpret our pain. Fight back by letting your thankfulness to God abound.
Beloved, will you join us in our pursuit of joy this year? Jesus is returning for a JOYFUL Bride. She won’t be offended or grumbling or crabby. She will be glorious and prepared and abounding in thankfulness to the Father. Therefore, let us fight for joy in ourselves and in others. Jesus is worthy of a joyful Bride.