One of my biggest struggles in life has been finding joy. I have certainly experienced my share of joyful moments, but only when things were going well for me. It took me many years to discover that true joy isn’t based on external circumstances. In its most authentic form, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if the Spirit is dwelling in you, you already possess the joy you seek. How’s that for good news? What’s even better is that tapping into the joy of the Holy Spirit is easier than you think. With that in mind, let’s look at 5 ways to find greater joy TODAY!
1. Stop Complaining – Without a doubt, the simplest and most effective way to experience joy is to stop complaining. Not only is this totally under your control, but it works amazingly well. Griping serves no purpose and is offensive to God. The Bible instructs us to “do all things without grumbling or questioning” (Philippians 2:14), but we often manage to overlook or ignore that message. If you can limit (or avoid) complaining today, you will please the Lord and feel more joy. It really is that simple.
2. Count Your Blessings – Joy and ingratitude cannot coexist. Unless you find a way to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude,” you will never fully experience the joy of the Holy Spirit. I’ll be honest with you: Gratitude does not come naturally for me. I have a tendency to be a complainer, especially about the little annoyances of life. As a result, I have learned to force myself (and that is no exaggeration) to thank God for my blessings when I wake up in the morning. Every day, I thank him for letting me wake up and get out of bed, for having a roof over my head, for my family, for hot water, for food to eat, for my eyesight and hearing, for my relationship with him and for anything else that may come to mind. Getting into the habit of doing this has increased my awareness of the way God blesses me every day.
3. Read Scripture – Every time you read the Bible, you have an encounter with the Lord. As a result of that encounter, your joy will increase. According to the prophet Jeremiah:
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart. (Jeremiah 15:16)
If you’re not sure where to start, try reading the daily Mass readings. They are available online (EWTN.com/daily-readings/) or from magazines such as Magnificat or The Word Among Us. How much time should you spend? Start with 5-10 minutes a day. You can increase it over time, but not at the expense of your daily responsibilities. Your disposition can change dramatically by giving the Lord just a few minutes of your time each day.
4. Live in the Moment – One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves (or Satan tells us) is that we can’t experience joy if we are in the midst of an ongoing problem. That is simply not true. I have been faced with some painful long-term problems, such as my daughter’s autism, financial issues and chronic anxiety and still managed to carve out little blocks of happiness. You may not be here tomorrow. The present moment is all you have. Don’t waste it by worrying about a future which is not guaranteed. Take a break and enjoy the sunrise, relax with a cup of coffee, take a walk with someone you love or spend some quiet time in prayer. By finding joy in the present moment, you are not being irresponsible or burying your head in the sand. Rather, you are obeying Jesus when he commands you to “not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matthew 6:34)
5. Stay Close to Jesus – If you make it a point to continually seek Jesus through prayer and the sacraments, you will experience an increase in joy. Going to daily Mass has become a source of great joy for me. It is my refuge in the storm. Being near the Lord has a transformative effect.
Not everyone can make it to Mass every day, but even going one or two days during the week will make a difference. Frequent confession (at least once a month) provides another opportunity to encounter Jesus and can also be a life changing experience. Time spent with Jesus is never wasted. As documented by the prophet Isaiah, spending time in the presence of Jesus is a source of joy:
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 12:6)
There you have it. If you put these five steps into practice each day, you will be on the way to experiencing greater joy. And, since this joy comes from the Holy Spirit, it cannot be negated by trials and tribulations. Think about that for a minute. The joy you seek is already yours. All you have to do is claim it. That news alone should make you feel joyful!