“But look at all she has!”
Domineering eyes peered out from behind gold rimmed glasses and a piping hot coffee mug. My coworker leaned in as if to tell me a secret. “I mean, how can she be unhappy when her life seems ideal: a wonderful husband, great kids, a nice house with a two car garage, and a loving family!”
Jane, my coworker, spoke from a place of brokenness in the coffee shop that day, referring to a mutual friend, Beth, who had recently complained of a hard and lonely season she was battling. Her comments about Beth dripped of bitterness. Jane had struggled through infertility herself and was now going through a taxing separation from her husband. In the midst of her own difficult season, she had become fixated on easing her pain by finding things that made her feel happy in the moment; filling her schedule with an endless cycle of striving and doing.
We all deal with things in life that threaten to steal our joy — the daily grind, comparisons, focusing on the negative outcomes of the day, unmet needs or expectations, misbehaving children, illness, worry over things outside of our control — the list could go on and on.
But I pondered over her words before responding, which gave me room for reflection.
I carefully replied, “Jane, there’s a difference between happiness and joy. Joy is, dare I say, a hallmark of the Christian life. One can suffer enormous amounts of persecution and pain, while simultaneously experiencing the joy that only comes from knowing the Lord.” It’s a hard truth to live out.
“Beth’s lonely season is her current circumstance. It is real and raw, but it’s only a condition that is happening in this fleeting whisper of a life. There’s a hope we have for something greater. A hope that sustains us and creates a deep, abiding joy of what’s to come.”
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 3:20, ESV)
After that meeting, I went back to my own home with a two car garage, my wonderful husband, and my 2 great kids. I surveyed the living room where I’ve typically done a lot of complaining and silent fuming over the untidiness of it all. I wandered over to the desk in the study where I do our budgeting and get literal migraines from kids screaming in the background. I glanced at our busy calendar, next to a half-written meal planning sheet, which screamed fatigue and failure back at me.
Standing in my kitchen, I realized that there are moments when we literally have to fight for joy — and those moments seem to come most readily in our own homes. This imperfect mess that is my home is also my family’s haven. Joy doesn’t come naturally just because we are Christians. It comes by placing our circumstances at the foot of the cross and creating an atmosphere that redeems those moments.
SIX TIPS FOR CREATING AN ATMOSPHERE OF JOY IN YOUR HOME
Think of these tips as areas to begin being intentional for the purpose of moving toward a joyful atmosphere in your home. Allow yourself grace for “moving toward a joyful atmosphere.” It doesn’t always come easily, but it comes by taking one intentional step at a time as we move toward the goal of honoring the Lord, which results in hearts overflowing with lasting joy.
1. READ SCRIPTURE AND BE CONSISTENT IN PRAYER | Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12, NIV). Staying grounded in the Word is absolutely imperative to finding sustainability in our hard moments. He listens to our prayers; He hears every word of scripture poured out in offering back to Him. He enters into our tough moments and remains right there with us. He is abounding in grace and mercy when we mess up. He’s the anchor that gives wings to our hope.
2. WORSHIP | When we are having a bad toddler day in our home, there is nothing that changes the atmosphere faster than dancing, playing instruments, or singing worship tunes at the top of our lungs. Some days are more of a struggle than others, but I play worship music anyway to let the lyrics of devotion saturate my heart and mind. And, inevitably, I’ll find myself humming along to beautiful songs in response to my Redeemer.
3. REFRAME THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS | This is often challenging, but a permeability settles through my household when I refuse to lie in the negativity of my circumstances. When emotions are high, it’s a good idea to step away and pull back from the situation. Reframing can change our perspective. “What good can come from this?” “What good is already occurring in this situation that I am not seeing?” When circumstances are particularly difficult and when decisions must be made, remember that joy comes in the morning — in more ways than one. I find a good night’s sleep will usually provide a fresh outlook the next day.
4. ENCOURAGE LAUGHTER IN YOUR HOME | Our bodies respond physically when we laugh. It lowers our stress and cortisol level, strengthens our immune system, and releases endorphins. Find some hilarious videos on YouTube, read a favorite comic strip, or call a friend who is a natural comedian. Start a Pinterest board of funny quotes/images you find online. Make silly faces or play silly games with your kids, friends, roommate, or spouse. Whatever you decide to do, be intentional about engaging in laughter on a daily basis.
5. STRIVE FOR UNITY | Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2, ESV). When an atmosphere of division is threatening to settle into our home, I pray for guidance and for God to bring unity — being one in purpose — into our environment. He desires unity within our homes; seek to be led by Him. When we pursue this truth, we live out the fruits of the Spirit and our unity is a witness to a watching world. He meets us there and it glorifies Him when we exemplify John 13:35.
6. SERVE ONE ANOTHER | You will never regret encouraging a culture of service in your home. I remember several conversations with a teenage girl in our youth ministry. Negativity usually dominated her words. We decided to start focusing on her gifts and how she could use them to serve others. Her eyes would light up as she began to brainstorm mindful opportunities, “I could send a card to my friend who just lost her grandmother.” This newfound love for serving eventually compelled her to find another friend who excitedly sought opportunities to serve alongside her. I noticed a dramatic turn of events in this young girl’s life. Where loss and despair had once settled deep inside her heart, seeping into her actions — she now radiated contagious joy. She had turned her eyes on Jesus, learned to serve in love, and the outcome was glorifying to God.
Today, wherever you are and whatever circumstances you find yourself in, know that there is joy to be found. Take a few moments to reminisce on God’s faithfulness in your life. Believe in His promises for you and take steps to ‘move toward’ creating an environment of joy in your own home.
And together, let’s praise Him for bringing us out of the darkness and into the light — and for the glorious gift of eternal life!