For me, the trickiest part of kayaking is just getting in the boat. Stepping off the dock one foot at a time into a rocking, unsteady object is a bit unnerving. Will it lurch suddenly in the wrong direction when my unbalanced weight makes contact? Can my other leg join the effort quickly and precisely enough to thwart disaster? Or, will my typically clumsy nature land me in the lake?
Fortunately, I am blessed with a husband who understands my worries and is familiar with my lack of grace. As I step from the dock to the kayak, he steadies me with his hand and offers lighthearted reassurances that I will not get wet.
Once I am in the boat, my anxious perspective makes a dramatic shift. As I push out from the dock’s wooden planks, I find myself immersed in blue. Blue skies and blue water for as far as my eyes can see. I breathe it in. My body relaxes and my mind becomes calm. Troubles seem removed…distant. I feel like nothing can disturb my peace. I think this must be what joy feels like.
If you’ve been in a kayak, you know balanced paddle strokes keep you moving ahead. Strokes pull through the water front-to-back on one side and then the other in rotation. Staying on course amidst waves requires holding the paddle straight, strong, and steady on the side you want to turn towards.
Much like waves hitting a kayak, we meet challenges in life which rock and impede the course we travel. Often, a mindset of joy is difficult to maintain. Where does joy flow from in the Christian faith? What actions support keeping it?
Seven Steps to Joyful…
Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10 New Living Translation (NLT)
The word mindful means to be attentive and insightful. From a Biblical perspective, being mindful is devoting our attention to God through prayer, Bible study, or reflection. This invites the Holy Spirit to help us let go of trouble and set our minds on peace.
Taking time to avoid distractions wakes us up to the various ways God speaks to us. Our issues become more apparent and decisions get confirmed. We may notice the same message coming at us in different ways and from different sources. Being mindful tunes us into the many ways God works to reach us, reassure us, and help us.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1 New International Version (NIV)
Becoming mindful naturally leads us to become more thankful. When we take note of God’s messages of love and guidance around us, we recognize how blessed we are. Soon our habit of thankfulness begins to outweigh our desire to worry and complain. As we appreciate more of what God does for us, our relationship with him becomes closer. We feel encouraged in both trouble and opportunity. Thankfulness leads us to appreciate what we have, teaches us to learn from problems, and helps us discover the ways God is working for our good.
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:2 (NLT)
Powerful prayers begin by relying on our thankful habits. Praising God for his love and forgiveness helps us frame our requests to him.
God is not picky about where or how we pray. He simply wants to hear about our challenges and the requests we have for ourselves and others. The load we carry becomes lighter when we tell him our fears, confess our sins, and ask for his help. Spending time in prayer eases our burdens and brings clarity to the dreams God has placed in our hearts.
4. Truth Full
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)
Along with prayer, a knowledge of God’s promises or truths found in the Bible brings us closer to him. Seeking him means discovering who he is and what he wants for us. Spending time learning about God’s love and wisdom fills us with his truth. It makes us truth full. Scripture teaches us about hope, strength, and how to live our lives. When we feel lost, the Bible provides a place to go for help and direction. Becoming full of God’s truth builds confidence in faith and leads us to carry out his plans.
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NLT)
Dutiful means conscientiously or obediently fulfilling one’s duty. Becoming mindful, thankful, prayerful, and truth full helps us work on understanding the actions God wants us to take to live joyfully. Sometimes obedience to God feels uncomfortable and goes against the ways of this world. Being a disciple often requires denial of self-centered desires in order to serve God’s purposes. Dutiful followers willingly make sacrifices and take action to bring glory to God’s name instead of their own.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)
Peace comes from a deep knowing that we have done all we can to follow God’s instructions. Continually looping back to being mindful, thankful, prayerful, truth full, and dutiful helps us reach the point of peace. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the calm stability of peace can be delivered even in times of chaos. Although life will not always go the way we would like, our work through these steps teaches us to rely on God’s help. Peace requires letting go of control and trusting God’s love to work for our good.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 1 Peter 1:8
Biblically speaking, our joy does not depend on whether things are going well or not. Many consider happiness and joy to mean the same thing. Biblical scholars, however, distinguish between the two in relation to Christian life. Happiness is defined as a feeling that is dependent on circumstances, and it is fleeting in nature. Joy, however, like peace, is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It can remain regardless of trouble, and it may even increase.
Once we find peace within ourselves, it becomes easier to observe and not get immersed in the swells of emotion that enter our lives. We still feel sadness, fear and other difficult emotions, but they don’t overtake us. With practice, our focus on God heightens our sense of well-being. We feel more even keel in the midst of trials. A calm satisfaction flows from the peace of trusting God with our circumstances – this is joy.
Experiencing joy through faith is a process. One that takes consistent time, preparation, and courage. Taking steps to become mindful, thankful, prayerful, truth full, dutiful, and peaceful teaches us about our God who loves us and is always with us. When waves come and rock our boat, we practice using these steps to get better at keeping our peace – maintaining a straight, strong, and steady course. We discover joy in the midst of it all.
Ready to do some work for joy? Step off the dock into the boat. Push off strong. Paddle left, paddle right. Keep paddling. Look ahead. I see blue. Do you?
Prayer for the Week:
Thank you for giving me the tools I need to steady myself in this world and discover your joy. Help me grow more mindful of your presence and blessings that fill my life each day. Draw closer to me as I develop an attitude of thankfulness for those blessings, and as I look for your good in anything that comes my way. Guide me as I work on taking my life to you in prayer. Fill me with your truths and teach me how to dutifully apply them. Bring peace to my heart as I surrender control and trust in your care. May the joy from your Holy Spirit flow through me always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
For more on peace, read Seeking 3 Kinds of Peace
For more on other gifts from the Holy Spirit, read Making Pie with the Holy Spirit
For more on thankfulness, read Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith
Note Photo Credit: Photos 1, 2, and 5 in this blog are from Pixabay.com. The rest are my own.