What is joy? Really?
Is there a secret to knowing overflowing joy, even in difficult times? On this Canadian Thanksgiving Day, let's consider how joy and thankfulness are connected.
Here's one thing I've learned about joy: We must fight for it. If that statement confuses you, then I suggest you read John Eldredge’s book, Walking with God.
He talks a lot about joy—that we need to be intentionally protecting God’s joy in our lives because at every turn, the enemy will resist our desire for joy.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart.” May I also add, “Guard your JOY!”
How do we guard our joy?
I like what the Jesuit priest, Brother David Steindl-Rast says: “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” Gratitude plays a significant part in guarding our joy.
Gratitude. Not thankfulness. There’s a difference.
“Being thankful is a feeling. Being grateful is an action.”
How do I put gratitude into action? One of my favourite ways is through music. Music lifts me up, brings my focus back to God, and helps me fight for joy. King David did the same. Psalm 27:6 says, “And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.” (I especially like how the psalmist repeats the phrase “I will sing,” showing its significance.)
One of my favourite albums these days is Phil Wickham's "Hymn of Heaven." I think I like it because he sings of fighting the battle, knowing His joy, and pondering all the names of God. When I sing along, my perspective always shifts to being grateful.
Gratitude involves a benefactor.
The other difference between gratitude and thankfulness is this: Gratitude involves a benefactor. Of course, that’s God our Father, who offered His Son Jesus to pay our debt in full. But it’s also the Father who displays His kindness in a million little ways throughout our day. Do we see Him? And are we grateful?
The act of gratitude puts us into the thick of the spiritual battle as we fight for joy—God’s joy. Not a smidgin of joy but an overflowing well of joy. Let’s choose that place, with hearts of gratitude.