Looking out my window today I’m pondering joy. I must admit I’m a little torn as the seasons change once again from summer to fall, quickly followed by winter. I do not like the cold, so I’m never one to complain about the heat. This year, with the exception of just a week or so, we haven’t really experienced unbearable summer heat. A couple weeks ago we were in Batavia, New York for a time of ministry and we really noticed how cool the evenings were getting. Standing outside in a park, once the sun went down, we noticed the chill in the air. Later we ended up at Wal-Mart looking for scarfs and gloves. Who would have thought we’d be buying winter clothes in August!
It was interesting to listen how others reacted to the cold. Some complained, some left, and others rejoiced. I was somewhere in the middle. Once I bundled up with my scarf all was well. However, the experience did make me ponder about joy. Where does our joy come from? How easily can we lose our joy? What things around us, can actually steal our joy? A number of years ago I remember praying with someone after church. As we prayed the person suddenly felt a great sense of joy come over her. A few days later she called the church office saying she felt so much better and would never let anyone “steal her joy” again.
It’s amazing how little things in life, sneak in to “steal our joy”. One minute we are celebrating a great event, or looking forward to a trip or some other exciting aspect of life. Suddenly, someone crosses our path and starts planting seeds of doubt and concern. Then, before we know it, our once joyous mood, suddenly changes to doubt, hesitation, or even worse, fear.
Paul gives us an example of how to remain joyful, even in the midst of hard times. I’ve recently been looking over his letters to the Philippians and the Colossians in the New Testament. We discover Paul writing with a sense of joy, even though life was falling apart all around him. As a matter of fact, both letters were written while Paul was actually in prison. However, even while bound in chains in prison, many refer to his letter to the Philippian church as one of his happiest letters. His work was under attack, the people he’s preached to were wandering off into other beliefs, and somewhere even rising up against him! But through it all, Paul writes with a joyful attitude while sitting behind bars in prison.
It’s also worth noting, Paul doesn’t tell us we can be happy. He doesn’t even tell us how to be happy. Paul simply IS happy! At one point he declares, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Even though he’s behind bars, Paul says to simply rejoice at all times. There is something to be said about attitude. Our attitude really does determine our outlook on life. Some are always complaining, even when things are going well. While others refuse to complain, even when things are going bad. I’m not saying we should ignore our circumstances and surroundings. But I am saying an attitude of rejoicing does lead to joy.
Standing in a park in Batavia, NY shivering as a result of a chill in the air, could have changed my attitude toward the event we were attending. The first night I simply pulled the zipper up a little higher on my jacket. The second night I was well prepared with a sweater and scarf. The next time you find yourself in a hard situation, try “rejoicing” instead of complaining. You just might find some joy in the midst of your situation.
Looking Out My Window is a regular column in the Northumberland Today newspaper located in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.