I have a colleague and friend who has an amusing habit of clasping her hands together and rather drolly telling us to ‘consider it pure joy, my brothers . . . ‘, in moments of frustration. The beauty of it is that while it’s said tongue in cheek, she truly is able to make us smile even in the most maddening situations!
The full verse (which she never actually finishes quoting) is James chapter 1, verses 2-3, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.’
What an incredible challenge! We are called to find ‘pure joy’ in our troubles and problems! I know I find it far easier to complain and see only the negatives than to look for the good in a difficult situation.
I’ve been pondering this the last week or so and wanted to challenge myself to find more joy throughout each day. Here are some simple changes I endeavoured to make in my pursuit to ‘consider it pure joy’!
In an age of high expectations and low tolerance for mistakes, forgoing the small satisfaction of complaining can be hard! Yet constant grumbling makes it hard for us to see the good around us and keeps us focused on ourselves and our own problems. Switching out complaints for positive comments made a huge change both in my mindset and in my interactions with others.
I have a bad habit of pointing out flaws first and giving praise second. Not only is this discouraging for those on the receiving end, but it’s impossible to be happy when you’re putting someone else down. Why is it that we love to receive encouragement and praise, yet often find it difficult to freely give these to others?
Encouragement is not just an easy way to make someone feel good, it keeps people from giving up, it builds passion, instils confidence and produces hope. I know that I would never have persevered in mastering some of the skills that I have today if my initial efforts were crushed by the criticism they no doubt deserved. Instead, the encouragement of others inspired me to keep learning and practicing and I will always be grateful for that.
There’s nothing inherently wrong in seeing our differences. We are all unique, all different and all fearfully and wonderfully made. But the saying, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ isn’t famous for nothing. No matter how talented, smart, rich or pretty, comparison inevitably gives rise to feelings of inadequacy. When our comparison leads to envy, low self-worth, anxiety or dissatisfaction, our joy quickly evaporates.
Gratitude is a simple antidote to dissatisfaction. I found that as I intentionally took time to take stock of the things in my life I could be thankful for, my feelings of inadequacy gave way to the joy that comes from being thankful!
When we’re going through a tough time or are experiencing a difficult situation, it’s easy to think that our problems would be fixed if would just happen. But would a better job, or more money or a relationship really make my life better? Maybe, maybe not!
I want to dream big, make plans and work out what I want in life. But I also need to remember to be present where I am today and to enjoy the life I have right now. Even when life is hard, I can live out my values. I can spend time with friends and family, prioritise learning and take steps to find joy even in the midst of pain.
Anna hails from Australia but lives and works in South East Asia. She enjoys travel, good coffee and getting to hang out with awesome people from around the world.