We give a lot of things away: our time, our money, our old clothes. And that’s all good—God calls us to be generous people, freely sharing what we have received. But there’s one thing you should never give away—something that will shape your day for the better.
I’m talking about your joy. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” If you have been feeling tired lately, struggling to be strong, then you may want to ask yourself, “Have I given my joy away somewhere?”
We all have opportunities every day to get upset, to go around frustrated. You can’t find the car keys. Traffic is backed up. Someone is rude. What should have taken an hour ends up taking four hours. There will always be something that can blow up our day.
If we’re going to live in victory, we have to be careful to protect the source of our strength—the joy we receive from God. Here are six ways to guard this precious asset:
Joy is not just a feeling. It’s a way of looking at things. It is a focus before it is a feeling. So, what are you focusing on?
It’s been said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond.” Some people are frustrated because they’re trying to control the 10%; they’re not going to be happy unless everything goes their way, everybody treats them right and all their plans work out.
That’s never going to happen. You can’t control the traffic, what your neighbor does or how your boss treats you. All you can control is your own response, and that’s where the power lies, not in trying to control everybody and everything. Don’t allow what you can’t control to sour your life. You have to change your approach.
Before we even get out of bed, we need to determine that no matter what comes our way, we are not going to get upset. No matter what somebody says, we’re not going to be offended. No matter what interruption or delay, we’re not going to respond in anger.
The key is deciding ahead of time. Then, when life happens—traffic is worse than normal, your children forget their homework at school, your spouse is in one of those moods, your plans don’t work out—it’s no big deal. You’ve already decided. Don’t wait until you’re in the heat of the battle: that’s too late.
Choose to embrace Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” (NKJV, emphasis added).
Too often, we think, “God, if you’d just change these people, change these circumstances, then I could be happy.” But the fact is, you could take someone with the right approach and put them in your same situation and they wouldn’t be upset. They wouldn’t be stressed. They’d be at peace, enjoying life.
Why? Because they know God is in control, that he’s directing their steps and all things are going to work together for their good. They’ve already made the decision that no matter what comes their way, they’re going to live happy.
According to Jesus, you have the power to be happy right where you are. He said, “No one can rob you of that joy” (John 16:22, NLT). That means other people cannot make you be unhappy. No circumstance can force you to get upset. You have to give it away. You have a choice.
Life is way too short to let interruptions and irritations keep us from being happy. We’re never going to get away from them. You can’t just pray them away. They are a part of life, and it’s very freeing to learn this principle: “I don’t have to give away my joy. There’s nothing people can say, nothing they can do. No circumstance can keep me from living this day happy.”
Take inventory of your life. What are you allowing to upset you? What’s causing you to be stressed? Identify what it is, and then make the decision to change your approach. A lot of times it’s a small thing that we’re making a big deal out of. Is it really worth losing your joy because you couldn’t find the remote control, or your spouse forgot to pick up your clothes from the dry cleaners?
Don’t make a big deal out of something that’s not a big deal. How many things that we let upset us last week were small things? How many times did we get stressed over something that in the big picture didn’t really matter? Make sure you’re not giving away your joy over something small. Proverbs 14:30 (NLT), says, “A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life.” Learn to go with the flow. Know that God is directing your steps. Don’t fight against everything that doesn’t go your way.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Notice, it’s a choice. He didn’t say he would take away everything that causes stress and frustration.
Now, you may have somebody in your life whose behavior or attitude tempts you to give away your joy, but if you don’t make the necessary adjustment, you’ll go the next 20 years allowing them to upset you. So change your approach. The next time they do something that would normally get on your nerves, don’t give away your joy. When they’re rude, keep a smile on your face.
If they ignore you, leave you out, don’t call all your friends and talk about them. No, when you stay on the high road, keep your joy and keep your peace, you’re not fueling their behavior anymore. In other words, you’re taking away their power.
The writer of Psalm 94 prayed for “power to calm himself and find peace in the days of adversity” (v.13). That’s saying that people may not change and the circumstances may not change, but you have the power to stay calm. You don’t have to give away your joy.
Remember Romans 12:21 (NLT): “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” When somebody’s rude or inconsiderate, too often we sink down to their level. We’re rude and inconsiderate back to them. But the way to really overcome is to do just the opposite. You’ve heard the phrase, “Kill them with kindness,” and that’s what we need to do. Think of something to possibly compliment them on, acknowledge what they are doing right.
Instead of getting upset so easily, draw the line in the sand and say, “That’s it, this is a new day. I’m not giving away my joy anymore. I’m going to stay calm, cool, and steady.” It’s possible. Psalm 16:11 says God can “make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”
We have the ability to see things from God’s perspective, and when we are viewing others through his eyes, we can’t get irritated. We can’t get depressed. God has given us joy, and when we stay in his presence we will have fullness of joy, to strengthen us for the day ahead.