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Is joy necessary? One leader recently shared with me that joy has always seemed like a luxury-it's nice if you have it but it is possible to soldier through without it. Her experience is hardly unique, for many leaders seem to lose their grip on joy in the effort to be productive in the fray of unceasing demands, criticism and stretching circumstances.
I'm intrigued that Paul doesn't hesitate to command his friends at Philippi to rejoice. "Rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice always! It is a safeguard for you (3:1, 4:4)." A safeguard is a precautionary measure, something which protects us against harm.
So what happens if we don't rejoice? Life gets heavy. We get cranky. And entitlement creeps in. A nagging sense that we should be more appreciated for all the hard work we do. Inner grumbling over all we have to put up with. Buying into the belief that we have a right to more. More respect. More honour. More salary. More gratitude. Entitlement breeds dissatisfaction and promotes greed. And it steals joy.
Joy is a gift, a response, and a discipline. As the second fruit of the Spirit, it is nourished and ripened as we stay connected with our Source.
Practising gratitude is one of the most practical and easy ways to nourish joy. In contrast to entitlement, gratitude recognizes that everything we have is a gift. The psalmist says, You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every little thing (Ps 145:16). Though God does not give us everything we desire, I've learned (and am learning) to echo John Eldredge's response to this promise when he says: "Not always, not on demand, but certainly more than we deserve." (The Journey of Desire)
Practising gratitude as a discipline is a simple but powerful way to make the shift away from entitlement toward joy. Gratitude simply chooses to recognize gifts of grace for what they are and to express thanks.
Here are just a few suggestions of how you can practise the discipline of gratitude:
The gratitude challenge
I encourage you to try an experiment. Practise gratitude every day for a week and see how it helps you to be joyful. I'm curious if you'll experience a greater degree of joy as you take up this simple habit. I'm sure you'll come up with more ways to practise gratitude. How about sharing them here, along with the results of this experiment?
How did the gratitude challenge work for you? What did you do to stimulate your sense of gratitude? What have you become more aware of as you have put Paul's exhortation to be joyful into practice?
A healthy soul
Conversations about the inner life