Remember the last time you bubbled over with genuine joy? Maybe you were splashing through ocean waves with your soulmate, or you were picking wildflowers with your two-year-old daughter to make princess crowns, or you were singing at the tops of your lungs with your best friend cruising down some back road, or maybe you were just sitting by yourself on your porch steps enjoying the beautiful day and you just felt really really happy.
It’s easy to say yes to beautiful heartfelt moments that instantly fill our joy tank. We like to feel good and relieve ourselves from whatever pain is eating away at us. A pool party, a Sunday picnic, a drive-in movie, booking a plane ticket to Thailand, or a Saturday shopping spree with your girlfriends may be the exact therapy you want to get your mind off things so you can find yourself smiling and laughing again. I know I rush into joy-filled moments faster than a balloon flying away on a windy day! If something appeals to me you bet I’m dancing about with a big ol’ YES! I know you all are dancing right along with me too. It’s effortless to say yes to something when we visualize ourselves happy and having the best time in a long time.
Why is it so hard to say yes to joy when we’re depressed, hurting, broken, and feeling stuck in a place full of painful memories? Why is it so difficult to say yes to joy when we don’t feel joyful? It’s not easy, that’s why! Having to put effort toward something when we are running on empty doesn’t come with a magic potion that makes everything instantly better. No. Saying yes to joy doesn’t always look like a cruise to the Bahamas, depositing your paycheck, or holding your brand new baby for the first time. Sometimes saying yes to joy can be the last thing you want to do when you feel empty, alone, and sad. It’s easier to be motionless in misery than it is to climb out of it.
The key to saying yes to joy is learning to differentiate what is GOOD for you from what LOOKS good to you. An entire bucket of ice cream may look good to you, but eating the entire thing in one sitting is not good for you. A gorgeous guy may look good to you and be tempting to date, but if he lacks morals he is not good for you. An invite to bar hopping with friends may look good to you, but choosing to go the night before your finals is not good for you. Allowing yourself to sink into deeper depression may look good to you because it requires no mental strength, but failing to take action is not good for you.
Developing your ability to say no to something that just looks good to you strengthens your ability to say yes to something that is good for you, which will lead you to experiencing health and freedom, and by being healthy and free one finds joy. When you choose temperance in your life, you are saying no to enslavement to something having power over you and are simultaneously saying yes to freedom. When you say YES to joy in moments when you don’t feel joyful, is you making the decision to not be a slave to your circumstance and activating your power. It does not mean you instantly feel happy, sugary, and want to break out into song like they do in the movies, but it means you are utilizing your power to invest into cultivating a healthy life that will ultimately bring you joy.
To say yes to joy can look like eating those disgusting veggies, turning off the television and going to bed at a decent hour, putting in an extra hour of studying, apologizing to a friend for hurting them, helping your Mom with the laundry, speaking your spouse’s primary love language and not your own, going for a run around the block, distancing yourself from toxic people, taking care of your skin, reading a book that nourishes you, joining an accountability group, or talking to someone about how you feel. Saying yes to joy does not always mean instant gratification that causes your joy tank to overflow the moment you say YES. It’s a lifelong investment. Most of the time, saying yes to joy is uncomfortable, awkward, and looks like those unappealing little details in daily life that you’d rather skip out on. When you choose to die to yourself and do the annoying task anyway, however unpleasant and joyless as it is, it doesn’t mean you’ll all of a sudden be walking on sunshine and grinning from ear to ear, but you will have done something that feeds your soul in a good way. Growing in temperance and developing a habit to feed ourselves what is good for us over what looks good to us enriches our quality of life because we are living in freedom! This produces authentic joy.
So in those joyless moments when you choose to feed yourself those little bits of soul food, you are saying no to being overrun by something that is not good for you, and are saying YES to something that will cultivate joy.
A secret trick to putting temperance into practice and strengthening your ability to say no to an unhealthy life, is in each little moment when you don’t feel the energy to push yourself to do something worthwhile, envision yourself a year from now or even a month from now, happy, fulfilled, and having the best time of your life. It’s the little details that make up your life. Choose how to live each one of them wisely because when they are added up they create the quality of the life you live. If you want to live a joy-filled, peaceful, and abundant life, then toil your soil so you can plant roots that will grow and will produce the fruits you desire.
For me today, saying YES to joy looked like washing the mountain of dirty dishes in my kitchen, cleaning up all the stuffing from my puppy’s toy she decided to decorate my home with, making my bed, doing something extra to make those I love feel appreciated, digging into personal development, and getting down on my knees to thank God for this beautiful life He gave me.
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