Some time ago I heard a speaker suggest that God intends JOY to be our internal guidance system. Like the GPS in our cars or phones. If what we are doing gives us JOY, we’re on the right path. If we are stuck in feelings of drudgery or simply going through the motions to get the bills paid, he suggested that our spiritual GPS is telling us we need a course correction.
My Lessons Using JOY as Guidance
I’ve spent this past several years trying to identify and abandon my limiting, negative beliefs about life being hard. Replacing anxiety with an expectation of Ease and Grace has been a repeating lesson. Following what gives me JOY means choosing activities that are motivated by Inspiration, rather than Obligation.
There’s no doubt that living with Joy and Inspiration is a lot more fun and less stressful than making choices from obligation, duty, responsibility and the elusive, “what I should be doing.” I’m happier. When I’m operating from joy, I see concrete results of expecting life to be generous to me, rather than believing I’m all on my own and must work hard for any progress. Apparently, however, I haven’t mastered this lesson yet, as it continues to come up for me again and again.
What About Hard Times?
However, I’ve been trying to reconcile this philosophy with periods of time in my life that have been extremely painful and required a great deal of tenacity and challenging inner work: (1) When my marriage to Jim was failing and it took years to find the help we needed; (2) When we went through a particularly difficult financial crisis; (3) When my son was dying; (4) Surviving the deaths of two husbands.
I can’t pretend that those times felt very joyful. Yet the skills and gifts that came as a result of those hard times are worth more than gold to me. Perhaps JOY during hard times is buried beneath the daily choices that eventually lead us through to relief. For instance, I was determined to find what we needed to save our marriage and restore our love. In spite of great financial strain, every bill was paid on time…a clear demonstration of grace! There was no question of abandoning my drug-addicted, dying son. I discovered new reservoirs of faith and strength as I grieved and survived the death of each of my husbands.
Distraction vs. Joy
Please don’t misunderstand. What is fun and easy isn’t always the choice that will bring eventual joy. Having an affair may be temporarily fun and an easy distraction from a troubled marriage. Putting a child in front of a TV for hours at a time may give you some relief. Buying something new and shiny in spite of being in debt may feel good for a moment. These temporary solutions to demanding responsibilities will not lead to a life of joy, however. Solutions that lead to joy are choices of integrity, responsibility and personal growth. Ultimately joy comes from becoming the best person I can be…the best partner, parent and human being. Joy is a deeper, more spiritual emotion than fun or happiness. It contains the element of soul-deep satisfaction.
The Joyful Results of Hard Times
I don’t have a complete answer. Yet there’s no doubt that the JOYful fulfillment of my childhood dream of teaching and writing books to help others have loving relationships was borne out of those hard times with strenuous lessons. Maybe, like the prophet in the Bible I can say, “To everything there is a season.” Perhaps times of difficult circumstances and strenuous lessons in growth alternate with times of JOY. But, I can’t help but wonder if, during those hard times, I believed that everything I needed would come to me with Ease and Grace, might the journey have had less anxiety? More Joy?
Using JOY as Guidance in 2024
I gave up on resolutions years ago. They inevitably, for me, resulted in failures and guilt. Instead I make whatever I want in the New Year an intention. Intentions, for me, allow for imperfection. It says I’m moving in a desired direction. For instance, I intend to continue walking a mile at least 4 mornings out of 7 in 2024. In addition, I intend to continue my journey depending more on JOY to guide me, rather than obligation or worry.
You have my love and support as we launch 2024 together,