Follow Your JOY

I listened to a podcast episode recently with one of my favorite authors, Amber Haines. I honestly don’t remember what she was talking about or how it came up, but Amber used the phrase “Follow your JOY.”

This phrase stuck with me (obviously, I’m writing about it) for many reasons. First of all, you know I love the word JOY. It is my absolute favorite. It has defined seasons, sealed friendships, and all around changed my life. I talk about choosing it, seeking it, and now – following it.

I love this phrase because it is our call as Christians. The LORD is our JOY.

But as I thought through writing about JOY, I felt some emotions that I wasn’t really sure how to handle.

I felt insecure about it. I felt like people would say, “Oh there she goes again, skipping around in the field of flowers talking about JOY again.”

I felt guilt about it. There are so many hard things always happening in our world. “She’s not capable of writing about (or feeling) things of depth and sadness. She just runs around pretending everything is all rainbows and butterflies.”

I felt like it was old news. “Is that the only thing she ever writes about?”

First of all, let’s say this: our emotions aren’t always truth. We know that, right? It is just so hard to convince ourselves of sometimes. Just because I feel a certain way does not mean that it is true. We have to separate the lies from God’s truth.

So, when it comes to JOY, I always come back to the quote by Kay Warren from her book Choose Joy:

“JOY is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

JOY is anything but shallow. JOY has a depth that is incomparable. JOY is hope in times of trial, trust in times of uncertainty, and peace in times of chaos.

JOY is in fact rainbows and butterflies. Because rainbows remind us of the great struggle of mankind and the promises and faithfulness of God. And butterflies remind us of the fight for beauty and the transformation that is required of us to become who we truly are. Are there better pictures of JOY than those?

It is the story we always hear – the people who have been through the most challenging struggles, the hardships, the heartbreak, are often the most JOYful people. JOY does not come from everything going your way – it comes from trusting the Lord when things don’t. Scripture tells us this: “Weeping may linger for the night, but JOY comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

JOY never gets old. It never goes out of style. It is never not necessary. JOY leads us to live lives of trust and surrender. It requires us to see beauty and search for adventure. JOY is never old news. In fact, we constantly need this reminder. Even when it becomes a buzzword, we need to remember its importance. What has JOY meant to you recently?

JOY shows us the health of our heart. Here is what I mean by this – I have recently found myself realllllllyyyyy struggling when I hear people share about chasing their dreams. I want, so badly, to be the friend who champions and encourages and lifts people up. I want to be a cheerleader of dreamers. But sometimes? I get icky and dark inside and I want to crumple up in a ball of insecurity and jealousy when people talk about pursuing their dreams.

So this is where this phrase “Follow your JOY” really comes into play. Because it seems to me that if I am envious or critical of someone following their JOY, it probably means that I am not following my own. I would venture a guess that I am not trusting God with the details of my life, I am not confident that ultimately everything will be alright, and definitely am not praising Him in all things. If we are bothered by someone following their JOY, it most likely means we are not following our own. It is this Brené Brown theory of scarcity: If they have JOY, is there any left for me? The answer is always a resounding YES. JOY never runs out.

On the flip side, if I am following my JOY, I will have an amazing capacity for cheering on others when they do the same. If we are feeling lost or purposeless, maybe the fix is to seek JOY?

JOY leads us to do unexplainably BRAVE things. It changes everything. I think JOY encompasses all the Beautiful Words in this life: mystery, adventure, hope, beauty, purpose, dreams, whimsy, and the list goes on. When we seek it, choose it, follow it – everything is different. Our worldviews shift, our attitudes improve, our hearts grow.

What would you do if you lived with a certainty that God is in control of all the details of your life? How would that change how you live? Where are you living in fear and trying to hold onto control?

Do you believe that ultimately everything is going to be alright? If not, what is keeping you from believing that?

What does it look like for you to praise God in all things? Maybe life is really challenging for you right now. There is always something hard happening. What does it look like to praise God even in that?

THIS is what JOY is – it is not the happy ending after the hard thing goes away. It is following beauty and hope in the midst of darkness. It is finding the light and basking in it. It is becoming aware and attentive to God’s GOODNESS in every part of our lives. YES. Let’s live this way!

Follow your JOY today, friends!

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Picture credit: Lis Cheesman #createwithfriends

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I write to process, and sometimes send those thoughts out into the void. Passionate about Jesus and people and bringing those two together. Living in and loving Denver. Working with college students, who are the coolest. Seeking Jesus and JOY in everything.

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