For the past few years I have celebrated New Year’s Eve by deciding on a theme word or phrase for the next year. Aside from that first year of new beginnings which was more of a prayer after such a difficult 2013, I have felt God direct me to what word He has for me. 2015 was a year of gratitude—learning about a state of being rather than doing. And 2016 was a year of transformation—a word that sounded exciting until I realized how difficult the process of transformation is. So when I felt God giving me the impression that 2017 should be a year of joy I was pretty ecstatic. How can you go wrong with joy?
The definition of joy is “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires…a state of happiness.”* That sounds great, right? We could all use a little more joy in our lives. But what I’m learning is that a little more joy begins with a little less of everything else. In order to possess what you desire, you have to first let go of what you don’t desire.
Living in consumerist America, the most obvious application of that idea is to material goods. Maybe you are the exception, but most people I know simply have too much stuff (myself included). Stuff people gave us. Stuff we bought that we don’t really need. Stuff from as far back as grade school that we just can’t seem to let go of. So let me ask you the question—do you possess what you desire? I’ll bet you have a lot of possessions, but how many of them actually bring you joy?
I recently read a great book titled The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The key premise it teaches is to choose what to keep on the basis of whether it brings you joy. If it doesn’t bring you joy, why are you holding onto it? Is it because you feel guilty getting rid of it, or you’re worried you may need it someday? That’s two things right off the bat we should all be letting go of—guilt and worry—certainly ones I struggle with. But, how much room do I have for joy if guilt and worry are taking up precious space in my thoughts and feelings? And don’t even get me started on fear and hurt, let alone the expectations of others. Yet God promises us joy. Like it says in my favorite verse, Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in him, so you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” All joy. Not just some joy. I think God wants to give us so much more joy than we currently have room for in our lives and in our hearts.
The year is still young. I still have much more to learn about joy, but I am starting by letting go. Letting go can be hard. I just had to say goodbye to my 17-year old kitty that I still remember holding in the palm of my hand when he was just a kitten. I cried that day and I still feel sad, but I am grateful for the time I had with him—especially the past few years. I am also letting go of a ton of material stuff that doesn’t bring me joy. And I have to admit, it feels pretty good to see my clean garage and neatly organized drawers.
Only God knows what the rest of the year will bring, but I have a feeling that I’m just warming up. Maybe I will even get to tackling those joy-stealers of fear and worry. One thing I do know is that joy and hope go hand in hand. Hope points to joy and is often the channel it travels through. So always remember that when sex hurts there is hope, and maybe a little joy too!