A lot has happened as of late, and as a result I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I would like. But I’m going to be much more purposeful about changing that because—well—change doesn’t just happen. We have to be intentional about it.

I’ve learned that joy is the same way. Joy isn’t something you find or stumble upon. It’s something you can choose to have. It’s something you practice. And while practice doesn’t make perfect, it does make better. So, in the middle of—and I’ll be completely honest here—crappy circumstances, I can opt to practice joy, even when in the middle of messy, stressful stuff.

So, rather than go on a rant about what’s been happening lately, let’s focus on how exactly you, me or anyone can be intentional about practicing joy…

Practice being mindful of God’s presence—always.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 (ESV)

There have quite literally been countless times I have had to walk Mark through painful, scary situations and procedures. The only thing I could do was simply be with him, a powerful, stable, calming presence, a presence that reminded him that—no matter what—I was with him. And this seemed to have helped him tremendously.

God’s presence can do tremendously more for each of us—if we choose to focus on it, instead of allowing our circumstance, challenge or the chaos around us to compete for our attention.

Recognize that joy does not depend on things being easy. Joy depends on Him.

For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Psalm 33:21 (ESV)

There are admittedly days when I feel like I can’t catch my breath. My worries run away with me. But then it gets even worse because I realize that all my worries are based on factual knowledge about Mark’s future. Many days, I wish I simply didn’t know what I know. Peering into the future is not always a good thing.

It’s on days like these that I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter how things are now or how they will be in the future. It doesn’t matter because I already know Who matters: the very One who controls it all and will work all things for good (Romans 8:28).

So, we can suffer and things can downright suck. But it doesn’t have to affect our joy because our hope—and our lasting joy—can only be found in him.

Invest in growing joy!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a (ESV)

No garden flourishes without being tended, and neither does joy. So, invest in your joy-filled harvest by being purposeful about planning time to just be with God.

Honestly, I think I’ve been woefully lacking in this as of late. Sure, I faithfully read and study my Bible, but I’ve been so busy taking care of all my responsibilities that I’ve not made time to really rest in and enjoy God.

It helps me to be more intentional about this when I think of a seed buried deep within the dirt. It may look like nothing’s happening, but that’s far from the truth. While in hiding, it sprouts and takes in nourishment from the soil so that it will later have the strength to push through the surface and grow into all it’s intended to be. Likewise, we can make time to hide in God’s presence (Psalm 119:114) and be strengthened (Isaiah 40:28-31), too.

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