This time of the year is challenging and often demanding. Beginning a new year can feel like starting again with the stress of new and remaining challenges. It can sometimes feel like the chaos doesn’t stop but shapeshifts into “the next thing”—medical issues, unexpected bills, family and friends in need, car accidents, storm damage, job troubles, surprising news that you never imagined… an unplanned pregnancy.
Our inbox of chaos and challenges are and will always be full. But we can’t hide from the challenges of life. There is a way to survive and thrive and embrace the chaos of life. I’ve found that a helpful mantra is “Practice Joy, and you will find Peace.”
Practice Joy? Why practice? Joy is what is called a “virtue.” Virtues can only be achieved by practice, as in the old saying, “try, try again.” Having joy in one’s life is a virtue practiced daily, repeatedly until you become so good at living joyfully that you become peaceful even amid the storms you may encounter.
What Is Joy?
Joy is commonly misunderstood. Most people think joy is the same as happiness. Joy is NOT happiness. We can find happiness eating our favorite food, visiting our best friend, or going on that perfect first date—but happiness is fleeting. After the delicious food is eaten, we go home from our friend’s house; that first date ends, and there is no second or third to follow.
Our happiness dwindles, and sometimes even sadness, loneliness, or disappointment settle into its place. Joy, however, is a constant. Joy is a state of mind and heart filled with contentment, confidence, and hope. It is a sense of rejoicing in the gift, purpose, and meaningfulness of your life and the life of those around you. Joy brings a deep sense that you are valued, you are loved just as you are, that your life has meaning and purpose, even when you can’t understand why things may be going wrong or not according to your plans.
Living with that sense of joy results in a remaining peace that lasts even in the depths of struggle. When you surrender that desire to control every event that affects you, you’ll find it is possible to begin to go with the flow and roll with the punches. Perhaps, you become curious about how the events you didn’t invite into your life might bring good things with it. You start to find the good in the bad and the ugly. Happiness is lovely but is fleeting. Joy is a constant. Joy brings peace.
Look For Joy In Your Life, No Matter How Small
So how do we find Joy? Because joy is a constant, we find joy by believing in and developing a relationship with other constant and unwavering anchors in our life.
I practice the virtue of Joy by anchoring myself to my spirituality and having a relationship with God as My Father, who loves me through everything. As a very tangible person, I also find that I need to anchor myself to the physical world to feel Joy. I find my joy in the beauty of creation, in touching, sitting on, and digging in the earth through gardening. Putting my hands in the soil and the plants and sitting under the trees helps me understand that I am a part of this world. While I am just one person in a vast community, my part is essential. You can’t have veggies without bees, nor flowers without other flowers and birds. Each plays a role in creating life.
This reminder that I play a role in others’ lives and that I need others in my life to live and thrive, as well, produces joy.
What constant unwavering unchanging anchors do you believe can anchor you to the virtue of Joy? Is it a God you believe in? Is it spending time outside in the mountains, in a forest of tall old trees or streams, lakes, and oceans that winds have buffeted, storms, earthquakes, and fires, yet they still stand and thrive? Is it gazing at the stars and planets in the sky, recognizing how ancient, brilliant, and massive our universe is?
Practice the virtue of Joy. Each time the stresses come, big or small, reflect on the beauty and goodness of what you believe in, which is permanent and more significant than you. Remember, you are loved deeply, unconditionally, and forever. You are here for a purpose and have something to give to the community of our world. Anchor yourself to the virtue of joy and assure that the crisis will pass. Within you lies the strength to stand even as the winds of the storm blow around you.
And remember, you are never alone in dealing with hardship and uncertainty. Support systems exist in your family, friendship circle, other community, or through resources such as Birthright. People are willing to stand alongside you and help you cultivate the joy and peace you deserve to have.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a crisis surrounding an unplanned pregnancy, please reach out to us. We’re here to hear you!