Joyful Living: Finding joy in unexpected places
by Krishana Kraft / Illustration by Malina Omut
I lost count of how many times a day I grabbed my phone and scrolled through social media. It seemed like a mindless break from the intensity of productivity. And I thought this social media habit would give me joy in staying connected. Instead, the habit often put me in a bad mood. Scrolling through photos and posts caused me to question who I was and what I needed.
Then one day after punching in my passcode, I pressed and held one of my social media app icons. As it started flickering, I clicked the “x”—and it disappeared from my screen. I found the next app and deleted that one, too. I kept going until I had deleted them all. I had sensed God’s invitation to take a month-long break from social media, and I was curious about what it might reveal.
I discovered that social media was stealing my joy.
Throughout his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul writes about joy. He emphasizes the truth that joy is ultimately found when Christ is proclaimed in any and every circumstance. Huh? Doesn’t that seem opposite of what we usually think about joy—a happy response to a favorable circumstance?
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5, NIV).
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23), meaning it is a character attribute that the Holy Spirit grows in our lives. We are joyful because of the Spirit who lives within our souls, rather than because of the circumstances surrounding us. That means our joy is rooted in relationship with Him.
If joy is about relationship with God living in us rather than what happens around us, then joy can exist even in the messy places; the not-so-post-worthy moments; the times of anger, hurt, insecurity and sadness. I’m not saying we need to paint a smile on our face when we’re hurting and act like nothing is wrong. Instead, let’s lean into this relationship that is better than any other. Let’s allow the joy of the One who journeys with us to carry us in the messy places of life. Like Paul writes in Philippians, “The Lord is near.”
Consider the following unexpected places in which you may discover the Holy Spirit’s work of developing joy in you:
Joy in missing out. Instead of allowing the fear of missing out (FOMO) to control you, join God on a journey of missing out. Maybe that includes taking a break from social media and being curious about its impact on your life. Maybe you feel challenged to create permanent space in your schedule for more time with the Lord—which may mean missing out on time spent binge-watching television shows. Personally, I rediscovered the joy of God’s deep love and care for me. I also found fresh joy in discovering who He created me to be (check out Ephesians 1:3-14).
Joy in giving out. Find a few ways you can offer generosity to those around you—even secretively. Complete an unassigned household task such as surprising your family by washing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom. Or if you have extra cash, pay the bill for the person behind you in the drive-thru line. Ask God to show you specific needs He knows you could meet. Then watch how He leads.
Joy in reaching out. It’s easy to get stuck in loneliness; I’ve been there. However, Jesus promised we would never be alone. He guaranteed that His Spirit would live with us and be in us (check out John 14:15-18), and that truth would provide security and comfort for us. With the Spirit working in you, consider how you could be Jesus to someone who needs encouragement. Pray for God to lead you to those who struggle with loneliness and about how you might offer His joy to them.
Discovering joy has more to do with our relationship with God and how He’s changing us. As we’re intentional about missing out so we can give out and reach out, we just might notice those seeds of joy growing in our own messy lives.
Krishana Kraft is the author of Tandem Living: One young woman’s high-risk adventure with Jesus across cultures, through cancer, and into the mystery of God.