I hope you all had a blessed Easter weekend as we celebrated the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus! I never feel that spring has begun until we celebrate Easter. And when I think of spring, I think of beautiful, lush gardens and blooms bursting forth in vibrant colors.
As I’ve enjoyed all the beautiful gardens around my neighborhood, the Lord has brought to mind the importance of cultivating joy in the garden of my heart. I want to share with you 3 “gardening” tips for cultivating joy in our lives. These are things the Lord has been teaching me over the past several years:
1) Experience Grace
First, to cultivate joy, we must know grace. We must seek to live a grace-saturated life by cultivating our relationship with the Triune God of Grace. We need to avail ourselves of the means of grace – (corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, Wednesday night prayer meetings, Ladies’ Bible studies, our own Quiet Times with the Lord) – these are the means God uses to help us know and be transformed by His grace. Psalm 90:14 shows the connection between God’s grace and our joy: “Satisfy us in the morning with your gracious love, so we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
Second, to cultivate joy, we must show grace: As we know grace more, we show grace more. God calls us to forgive others as He has forgiven us in Christ (Ephesians 4:32). Nothing robs our joy more than an unforgiving, grudge-holding spirit. In order to cultivate joy, we must, as author Tommy Newberry puts it, be a “perpetual forgiveness machine!”
2) Express Gratitude
Gratitude is a discipline God calls us to practice every day and in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). And as we express gratitude to God and to others, a natural byproduct will be joy. How many times a day do we say, “thank you” to God and to others? There is a direct correlation between the amount of gratitude we express and the amount of joy we experience. Ingratitude and an entitlement mentality are the norm in our culture, and joylessness is the result. As we are uncommonly grateful, we will be uncommonly joyful as well. In her wonderful book, Choosing Gratitude, Nancy Leigh DeMoss quotes Charles Chapman’s description of the famous puritan, Matthew Henry. Chapman said of Henry:
“Henry possessed the desirable disposition and power of looking on the bright side of everything…There was a loveliness in his spirit, and a gladness in his heart, which caused others to feel ‘how happy a thing it must be to be a Christian.’ Though not given to indulgence, he enjoyed the blessings of Providence with thankfulness. This cheerfulness pervaded his entire life…One reason of the great power of his life over many who were not decidedly religious men, lay in the constancy of that happy spirit which they saw and coveted.” (emphasis added)
I love that! That’s the kind of Christian I want to be!
Do we possess that kind of joy? Are we happy Christians? If not, we can start by learning the discipline of expressing gratitude!
I have started recording 3 things I’m thankful for each day in my prayer notebook. This has really caused me to pause, reflect, and dig deep for all the many things I have to be grateful for. From hot, freshly brewed coffee waiting for me in the morning, to the kind words of a friend, I am learning to look for God’s hand in every detail rather than whine and complain.
3) Establish Goals
Aimlessness leads to joylessness, but the establishment and pursuit of God-honoring goals cultivates joy in our lives. It is important to set goals in every area of our lives – spiritual, financial, family, health, and so on – in order to say ‘yes’ to the right things and ‘no’ to the wrong things, and to ensure that we use the time, talent, and treasure God has entrusted to us to glorify and enjoy Him. I love the refrain in C.T. Studd’s wonderful poem (I have it framed and sitting on my desk in my office):
“Only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
All we do can be done for God’s glory. C.S. Lewis said,
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
What dreams has God given you? What goals does He want you to accomplish with your life? As you pursue God’s goals for your life, you will experience great joy.
So let us experience grace, express gratitude, and establish goals that glorify God and advance his Kingdom. And, as we do, in the words of Nehemiah 8:10, “May the Joy of the Lord be our strength.”
Choosing Gratitude – This book has become a perennial favorite of mine. It’s so good and convicting, that I try to make a point of re-reading it often. Nancy Leigh DeMoss encourages us to live lives of gratefulness and shows how doing so can radically transform our lives.
40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life – Tommy Newberry has quickly become one of my favorite authors. His books are highly practical, and this one is no exception. His proactive joy is felt on every page. Tommy shows us how joy is a Biblical discipline and practical tips on how we can cultivate that discipline each day.