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Focus for a fresh year – JOY

Moving from one year to the next is always a good time to reflect and refocus. What do we want 2019 to look like? Is there something you want to do or achieve? Maybe it’s being healthier, to run a marathon, maybe you’re clinging to a dream you want so badly, or maybe you want to change something about yourself. Whatever you’re adding to your resolutions or focus for the year ahead, you can guarantee it won’t just fall into your lap. You’ll need to work at it and make an effort to achieve your goal.

Having some time off work over Christmas has helped me really think about what I want to do in 2019. Obviously there’s the usual stuff – lose weight, be more active and get the work-life balance right. But there’s a bigger picture and a challenge I have set myself – and I would love others to join me on the journey.

One word keeps following me around and jumping out at me in everything I do – JOY. It’s taken me a while to really grasp the meaning and what it might look like in action.

In Philippians Paul teaches about genuinely living as Christians – what it really means to be a light in the world…

“Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be blameless and innocent. You will be God’s children without any faults among people who are crooked and corrupt. You will shine like stars among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life. Then I can brag on the day of Christ that my effort was not wasted and that my work produced results. My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service ⌊I offer to God⌋ for your faith.

Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you. For this same reason you also should be filled with joy and share that joy with me.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:14-18‬ ‭GW‬‬

Did you catch that? Paul’s life wasn’t easy – he was persecuted, imprisoned and ultimately executed for his beliefs. But in every situation he could find JOY and he wanted to share that joy with others too. Easier said than done right?! I know when we’re facing challenges or low points in our life it can be hard to find joy but please just give me a few minutes to explain how I’m approaching 2019 with my heart set on finding joy even on the tough days. Why don’t you consider joining me on the journey?

When I did my usual research to find the dictionary meaning of the word JOY there was of course a selection of explanations…

“The emotion evoked by well being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

A source or cause of delight.”

“A fruit of the Holy Spirit… having a sense of happinesss regardless of what is happening to you!”

Reading all of these descriptions I had a bit of a revelation – joy is a feeling. It isn’t something someone can give you or take from you. It’s something you choose to feel – deep down in your soul and your heart you have to make a choice to feel joy. You are the only person who can make that decision whether or not to feel joy. Yes what others do or say can play a part in how you feel – our actions and words can help someone or hinder someone in their quest for joy but ultimately we’re the only ones who can control our reaction and feelings.

To give you a personal example from the last month or so… when I was working long hours to meet important milestones on our project – it was draining, at times it pushed me to my limits emotionally and physically but when I came home each evening to my wee family I remembered that there is so much joy and love waiting here for me at the end of the day. It wasn’t always easy to switch off but a smile or a huggle from my girls and hubby filled my heart and soul with joy. I try to remember that, while the stress isn’t pleasant or ideal, if I focus on the joy in my life (beyond the moment I’m in) it can help me get through the every day trials. At my desk I surround myself with photos of the girls, bible verses for encouragement in my stationary (thanks Ali Marriott) and if I’m facing a particularly challenging task or review I say a little prayer and remember…

“I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭GW‬‬

God never promised us an easy life – but he promises to be with us every step of the way and if you look hard enough there will always be something or someone he has put in your life to help you find joy even in the darkest days.

And what about our roles as sisters and brothers in Christ to share joy just like Paul wanted to do? My dear friends have no idea how much a simple text asking how my week is going or offering a little encouragement can help me hold on to the joy in my 9to5. God’s timing is perfect, he uses us all in different ways but one thing I am sure of – we can all impact the lives of others and bring joy in any situation.

There are massive projects like our dear friends in Angel House India who are literally giving everything to build the orphanage the Lord has set on their hearts – what an awesome work they’re doing. But we have smaller personal ministries like the mum at home with three kids who by simply being there and offering support and encouragement to others via coffee dates, text messages or a Facebook post can lift spirits and hearts.

God uses the resources we have at hand in order to use us to help bring joy to the world – we may be blessed with money, it may be abilities and talents or it may be giving your time and energy. You may feel inadequate, you may think you don’t have anything to offer but that’s not how it works – throughout the Bible we hear of the Lord taking little and multiplying it beyond what we could ever imagine. The boy who gave his loaves and fish, the widow and her pot of oil and of course the awesome miracle we’ve heard so much about in the last few weeks – the baby born in a manger who became the sacrifice and salvation for us all. You see God doesn’t need you to be rich or famous – he needs you to be willing and faithful.

So this year – I urge you not only to consider searching for the joy in your own lives but consider how you can boost others and help them choose joy!

Is there someone you know to be lonely? Go spend time with them.

Can you help that person who is down to their last penny before pay day? Slip a tenner into their purse.

Do you see a couple struggling to get out of the house without the kids? Offer to babysit for a couple of hours.

Is your heart touched by a good cause or charity? Volunteer to help with a fundraiser or do something practical to help them.

When you notice your work colleague is under pressure and stressing out – why not offer to help them with their task? Or if you can’t help practically could you make them a cuppa or ask if they fancy a walk at lunch time?

Do you see that mother or father struggling and feeling inadequate? Remind them they’re awesome!

Do you know someone who is facing a health battle and you feel helpless? Simply reach out to offer your prayers and support.

That may be all it takes to help bring some joy to others – a simple act of kindness with no expectation of getting anything back in return.

In this crazy dog-eat-dog world that is driving so many to depression let’s make 2019 the year we shine like stars and focus on choosing and sharing joy.