What is joy anyway? The secular definition is generally considered to be “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness,” (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/joy), but, for our purposes we look to Christian pastor and author, Rick Warren, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” This has always been the true definition, but in the current situation, there can be no other for the Christian that makes sense.
Right now, the world is in the grips of an historical event—the spread of the novel Corona virus and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic. It has given this journey toward joyfulness an entirely new meaning and perspective. Instead of overcoming what now seems like petty, daily worries and inconveniences, we now confront issues of life and death, economic meltdown, and personal crisis on an amazing level. This makes Day 21 of 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life even more critical to our ability to live with joy. Today’s topic is compassion.
Author of our guide, Newberry, devotes Day 21 to urging us to consider that those who confront our sense of peace and happiness on a day-to-day basis may have things going on in their lives that have nothing to do with us. Because we have no idea what others are dealing with, we should show compassion by not reacting to their slights or offenses as though they are attacking us personally. The benefit to us is that we won’t allow our happiness to be disturbed by things that may not be about us at all. If someone breezes by you without a greeting, your choices are to disturb yourself by imagining they hate you and are still angry about “X,” or to give them the benefit of the doubt and suppose they were in a rush or distracted and just didn’t realize it was you.
What makes this pertinent today is that it’s not much of a stretch to realize that people are under a great deal of pressure. Most likely, you are under a lot of pressure too. Lost your job, concerned about a potentially deadly but invisible foe, wondering if your child’s runny nose is allergies or the Virus. All these things can make us a little nuts. We’re all social distancing and the few interactions we have can be fraught with opportunities for offense.
It might help to remember the advice of James in James 1:2-3 (NLT), “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy (insert Warren’s definition here). For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” The Apostle Peter suggests a few qualities we can add to our expanded faith, “Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.”
So make allowance for those around you. Give yourself a break, too. The times are frightening and uncertain. The Psalms are full of examples of people who cried out to God with their troubles, their fears, and their outrage but once they spilled their problems, they turned their attention to praise and thanksgiving. If your first response is to cry out or complain, you’re in good company. Just remember, in the end, the goodness of the One who has promised your salvation.
The recommended action for Day 21 is to identify up to four individuals with whom you have an important relationship. Note one way for each that you could extend more compassion. The suggestion for going the Extra Mile could be especially appreciated by its object. Pick one person to concentrate all your positive energy on just for today. Spouse, child, sibling, parent…your choice, but Newberry suggests you ask God’s guidance before you choose. Don’t tell the other person what you’re doing, but ask God to use you as an ambassador of joy in that person’s life.
I know that I could certainly use that kind of attention today! Maybe providing it for another person could be just as effective!
How could you be an ambassador of God’s love and joy today?