Joy

From the Archives – Finding Happiness in Difficult Times

We’re a week or so into February, so today’s article has a bit of romance for Valentine’s Day and much application (finding happiness in life) for the other days of the year. I came across this true account from Reader’s Digest:

My cell phone quit as I tried to let my wife know that I was caught in freeway gridlock and would be late for our anniversary dinner. I wrote a message on my laptop asking other motorists to call her, printed it on a portable inkjet and taped it to my rear windshield.

When I finally arrived home, my wife gave me the longest kiss ever. “I really think you love me,” she said. “At least 70 people called and told me so.”

In Genesis 29, Jacob initiates what will be one of the great romances of all time; no cell phone message could compare to it. Although this romance had a happy ending (he did marry his beloved Rachel), Jacob’s life was complex, stressful, and messy. Despite great hardships, his life was rich and filled with happiness. How can this paradox be? The answer is no surprise: God.

Jacob had been scared, lonely, probably overcome with guilt, and walking into the unknown. He had stolen both the family birthright and Isaac’s blessing from his brother Esau; Esau was so angry with Jacob for his low-down scheming that he planned to kill him. To preserve his life, Jacob hurriedly exited Canaan and headed toward relatives in Haran (what we now call Iraq).

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“Christian joy stands out among a sad and sullen people”

The Christian is a joyful being! He’s one who has come to know God and hopes to know him more fully, indeed, to know him face to face in glory where there will be an eternal enjoyment of who He is and who we are in Him. In this world, this kind his joy is contagious." - Ref21 

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Practicing Gratitude: Grateful Heart, Grateful Life

By Diane Scallon

Did you know that practicing gratitude can rewire your brain? Yes, the brain, this amazing creation of God, can be rewired! Gratitude is a heart change that leads to behavioral change, ultimately improving your physical, mental, and spiritual health and even cultivating a delight for life.

A Neuroscience Lesson

Our brains are composed of many parts. The limbic system is responsible for our emotions. It consists of both the amygdala (looks like an almond) and the hippocampus (looks like a seahorse). Both of these regulate emotions, as well as other things like memory and body function. In addition to these beautiful parts of our brains working together on our emotions, the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin play vital roles as well. For example, when these are released, we tend to feel joyful. This happens both when we are practicing gratitude and receiving gratitude.

Let’s talk for a moment about the brain healing itself, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity—essentially, the brain’s ability to rewire itself by forming new neural connections—is involved when someone has to create new ways of functioning due to a brain injury or another health issue. The brain learns! When we practice gratitude, we train our brains to make new neural connections, leading to physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits.

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From the Archives – The Neglected Power of Christian Joy

Paul lists three great virtues, “faith, hope and love” in 1 Corinthians 13:13, yet he informs us that “love” is the greatest of the three. Two books of the Bible are devoted to the virtue of wisdom: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. How can anyone underestimate the importance of wisdom in light of this? But the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23) and the armor of God (Eph. 6:14-18) are two more examples of “virtue lists” found in God’s Word—and there are many more.

With all these virtue lists floating around, we can end up dizzy. What do I pursue: love, faith, holiness, graciousness, zeal, knowledge, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, or self-control? The answer is “yes.” These attributes are complementary, but they can be examined individually. After examining them, we need to integrate them into the whole package of who we are. In a sense, being a balanced Christian means being a complete Christian; we attain balance by including all these virtues and excluding none. None of us attains this perfect balance; indeed, we probably cannot even agree as to what that perfect balance should be.

Jesus and joy

Jesus obviously lived out the perfect mixture of attributes for His calling as Messiah, but even that is not enough information for our lives. Jesus never addressed pesky salesmen on the phone, nor did He decide what options we should expect on our cell phones. Still, His character gives us the supreme example and starting point. One attribute Jesus cherished and repeatedly discussed is joy.

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