This year, I continue my pursuit for the root of joy. I know that joy comes from the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11) and I know that we should “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), but in mundane life, where does joy come from? It’s a tough question.
I was taught from a young age that if I didn’t know the answer to a question, I could try to solve it through process of elimination. I’ll admit, process of elimination is by no means a foolproof tactic, but it did help me figure out something that is definitely not the root of joy.
I can rule out comparison right off the bat. Now don’t get me wrong, a little comparison is good. In moderation, it’s competitive, healthy even. Looking to others can help push us, inspire us, and make us better, and that’s good. But when comparison oversteps its healthy boundary, and brings envy instead of inspiration, it can lead us to feel unhappy in our own lives. In this case, comparison is not the root of joy, but the thief of it.
I know I don’t stand alone when I say that comparison is a thief of joy in my life. I know I don’t stand alone when I say that I’ve too often fell prey to envious, jealous comparison when scrolling through social media feeds, seeing beautiful people leading lives that somehow always seem more exciting than mine. And I know that I don’t stand alone when I say that I wish it didn’t happen. As happy as I am with my own life, it’s still too easy for the grass to look greener on the other side.
So, what then? How can we combat comparison from stealing our joy? I’ll let you in on a secret… You don’t have to completely give up social media, your phone, or the internet (as some people might try to convince you…) to protect your own joy.
When I realized that comparison was stealing my happiness, I began searching for something that could restore it. Turns out, I didn’t find it in the same place I lost it, but somewhere totally different.
It’s gratefulness. Gratefulness is the root of joy. Have you ever seen someone that was unhappy because they were grateful for their life and everything in it? I surely haven’t, and I hope I never do. Giving thanks will only bring you joy, and it won’t cost you a thing.
I challenge you not to give up scrolling through your Instagram feed, and I challenge you to keep on reading all your friends’ Facebook statuses and looking through their pictures. But, I also challenge you to become aware of the boundary between healthy and unhealthy media time and to learn to use gratefulness as your weapon when comparison starts to creep up, as it will.
When you see pictures of cute couples from Christmas/New Years/any occasion and sigh at your singleness (don’t worry, I do too), I challenge you to first, remember that every person is in their own season, and everything happens as it should, in God’s time, not yours. Then, I ask you to be thankful, yes, you read that right, thankful for your season of singleness. It won’t last forever. There is a person out there that God crafted just for you; they’re out there right now, but they’re not quite ready for you yet. In the meantime, work on learning and growing as much as you can, (and if you listen, you might hear that God’s calling you to put him at the center, instead of worldly longings… but hey, maybe that’s just me) and being thankful for the time God is giving you to prepare for what’s coming next.
When you see pictures of your friends on vacation in picturesque locations, sprawled on a sunny beach in the Bahamas or hiking through the European countryside, I urge you to embrace the wanderlust. The world is a great big, amazing place waiting for you to explore it. If travel is truly calling your name, what’s stopping you? Make some plans and follow through. If a big trip isn’t realistic right now, as is the case for most of us, try connecting with nature by going for a walk, finding a park, or heading to the beach. Find somewhere you can find a moment of peace and grace. I promise, there are destinations closer to home that are just as good for some much needed fresh air, pretty plants, or breathtaking sunsets. You never know what places are out there to find, unless you go look for them. (Here’s some pictures of the things I found, without even leaving my neighborhood.)
When you see pictures of people going out and having a good time, I’d like to kindly remind you that almost everything looks better in some way in a picture compared to reality. If you’re stuck at home, maybe with a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out), don’t worry, we’ve all been there. In fact, most of us are actually home most of the time, but it’s easy for it to appear that someone is always out doing something while you’re not. That’s life. This is the case I find myself in most often. In these times, I remember to be thankful for each day, and to make the most of my time. At the same time, I encourage you to be thankful for your dog snuggling with you on the couch,
your family that made dinner for you, or your sibling that will gladly watch another episode of that Netflix show with you. Enjoy the little things, and be grateful for what you have, exactly where you’re at.
I encourage you to start each day with a grateful heart and to start the hunt for your own joy. Try giving gratefulness a chance; I know you won’t be disappointed with how it will start to transform your life. If all else fails, offer it up to God and always be open to the story He has written for you.