It’s GUEST POST DAY, guys!! My favorite day of the month! And friends…this one is powerful. Written by my friend and fellow Hope*Writer, Kellie La Follette, this piece teaches us three simple ways to cultivate joy. Kellie and I met one year ago this month, and I cannot tell you the blessing she has been to me. She is a natural-born encourager, a fearless speaker of truth, and a faithful prayer warrior. If you have Kellie in your corner, you have no bigger fan and no better friend. I am over the moon to share her words with you today. The following is truth she has learned in the midst of battle. These are not mere pleasantries; these are truths forged in the fire. I know they will bless you.
Sharing the rock solid, everlasting joy of Jesus with others is one of my favorite privileges. When Mary Kathryn invited me to write on joy, my heart lit up. I’m excited to share what I have learned about joy with you.
14-years ago a mass radiation accident during a teacher in-service training radically altered my life. I went from summiting Mt. St. Helens and finishing the Portland Marathon to living mostly homebound in relentless pain.
Some can’t conceive joy being possible in my life.
Radiation burns caused a hard unexpected life pivot, but also a sacred journey toward discovering real joy and its source.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
I learned joy can grow deep roots in the ground of crushed dreams, unimaginable pain, loss, loneliness, and in the monotony of everyday routines.
“Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God.”
Joy isn’t happiness or lack of sadness. Joy is different. Happiness rides on the surface like a skittering water bug subject to the shifting winds or the wave of the latest news that touches our lives. Sometimes happiness skitters away for a time, but joy stays even during our hardest days and seasons.
Do you have joy?
Do the circumstances of your life make joy seem distant or out of reach? Are you battling illness, loneliness, a divorce you never imagined, day-after-day of the same routine, or an old sin that won’t leave?
A life of joy despite challenging circumstances doesn’t just happen, you must intentionally cultivate it.
If joy feels distant to your heart, the question you must ask yourself is, “Am I doing anything to cultivate it?”
Is your Bible open? Not just open, but read with a seeking and expectant heart? Billy Graham never closed his Bible. Whenever he walked passed, the open Bible was an invitation to pause and be with the Lord.
You grow the roots for cultivating joy when you plant God’s Holy Word deep in your heart.
How is your prayer life? Rev. Summer Gross keeps a candle burning throughout the day. Each glimpse of the candle is a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s presence and a gentle prompt to pray.
Oswald Chambers wrote: “We starve the Holy Spirit within us when we do not pray.”
Joy will be elusive if the Holy Spirit is starving inside of you from lack of prayer.
You further cultivate joy as you plant God’s Holy Word in your heart and water it with prayer developing intimacy with the Holy Spirit.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Harvest and Share
Do you know the story of the long-handled spoon? The story is not in the Bible, but the principle is.
Picture yourself sitting at a banquet table with delicious, rich smelling soup in front of you. You are literally starving and can’t wait to eat. The dilemma is your only utensil is a three-foot-long spoon making it impossible to bring the soup to your lips.
Some people at the banquet table will perish. They get stuck thinking only of themselves and their own painful troubles. They starve.
Others realize while they can’t feed themselves, a three-foot-long spoon is perfect for feeding the person across the table. They lift the spoon, dip into the warm soup, and reach out to the hungry and hurting person in front of them.
A long-forgotten sensation of joy begins to override their own hunger pangs as they serve.
Are you experiencing physical or emotional pain? Would you like it to diminish? Reach out in love to others. Do not fall for the lie “I can’t because…”. There is always a way. If a physical or financial restriction keeps you from doing or going, never forget you have power through prayer to share joy.
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:7
You cultivate joy in your own life when you share it with others.
Has the Holy Spirit nudged your heart with an idea or brought a person to mind you can reach “across the table” too? A neighbor? A friend? Perhaps even a stranger? Who will you bless with a surprise plate of cookies, a kind word, a card, or even a bowl of soup? Who are you lifting in prayer? What steps will you take toward planting, watering, and sharing your harvest of joy?
My journey towards joy didn’t happen all at once. It began in the desert of loneliness and loss. Eventually, I recognized my traveling companion. The Holy Spirit was with me and promised to never leave. Ask. He will travel with you too.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
As I welcomed Him into conversations, prayers, reading God’s Word, Bible studies and even art, joy grew. Over time, He helped lift my eyes off of myself giving me vision and compassion for the hearts and needs of others. He taught me being confined to home doesn’t confine my prayers or limit joy. I pray you will take steps to cultivate joy in your life and the lives of others.
“The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.” Helen Keller
Plant God’s Word in your heart
Water with prayer
Harvest and Share Joy with others
We invite you to comment below with your next brave step below. Your inspiration can be part of growing a treasure chest of ideas this community can draw from as you step into summer cultivating joy.
You make known to me the path of life. In your presence, there is fullness of joy at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
For musical inspiration listen to Go Light Your World by Chris Rice.
– Blessed and Grateful