The journey to joy doesn’t always feel joyful.
Some of the tasks suggested by Tommy Newberry in his book, 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life don’t inspire joy. Some, like yesterday’s idea to give God the first 15 minutes of your day may have caused feelings of guilt as the you contemplated rolling out even earlier than usual to establish such a routine feeling sure you never would.
Today’s exercise can feel no easier. Newberry suggests, “You made me mad,” is technically incorrect as no one can make you mad. Your anger is a response you select to the stimuli provided by the other person. Choosing to react to other people’s actions instead of proactively choosing how you will respond is always under your control, he says. Just him saying this can make you mad. “How dare he? He doesn’t know how crazy-making ___________ (fill in your crazy-making person’s name) can be!”
The exercise for the Day 5 is to consider 3 recurring negative or stressful situations you face. Write them down on a sheet of paper along with three potential responses: poor, acceptable, and optimal. The optimal response would focus on things that are true, honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). You may seriously doubt this list will stop your crazy-maker from making you crazy, and you may even feel condemned when it doesn’t.
Jesus made it clear that our feeling and actions aren’t the real issue when he said, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of ” (Matthew 12:34 GNT). The mouth usually broadcasts our emotions. Our minds drive our feelings and our actions. The mind is what must change. That doesn’t happen in in 5 days or forty. Give yourself time and grace while you and the Holy Spirit work together to “let God change you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good, and pleasing, and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT).
In reference to the exercises on this 40-day adventure, think about them. If the exact application doesn’t appeal to you now, think about the goal of the task. If early mornings aren’t your thing, how could you find some private time with Jesus? On a walk at lunch? After your kids are tucked in? Likewise, for today’s goal of taking back control of your thoughts, maybe you could start by noticing where you give power over your emotions to others. Did that other driver cutting you off on the freeway this morning set off an angry reaction that lingered through lunch? Did you mother-in-law’s comment about your cooking drain your self-confidence for days? How could you take back control of your thoughts and feelings? I found a lot of comfort from learning all the wonderful things God has to say about me in His Word. As Romans 8:31 NLT says, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
These 40 days are yours and mine. We’re on this journey to increase our satisfaction and joy in life. Self-critical, self-doubting thoughts don’t lead in that direction. Let this be a peaceful, uplifting road. Always remember that, because of Jesus, you are already perfect in God’s eyes and you can never make Him love you any more or any less. These forty days are about you and me loving Him more. That is where the true joy is found!
Here’s one last exercise for today. Sit quietly and ask Jesus, “What’s your favorite thing about me?” If you want to, share His answer below.