Most of us experienced the cumulative impact of the COVID pandemic on our everyday lives throughout the past few years. For some of us, this resulted in a lessening of our daily activities, whereas for others, it resulted in a larger workload or additional responsibilities. Since many of the avenues for activities or interactions with others that provide a reprieve and inject novelty into our daily routines were affected, for many this may have resulted in a sense of boredom or tediousness. Someone I communicated with during a prolonged period of lockdown described it like this:
Sometimes it feels as if the joy has been sucked out of your life and you’re now on autopilot, just going through the humdrum motions, day after day. You know what you need to do, but you don’t want to do it. You’re not in the mood. You’re in a funk. You don’t have the motivation to move forward. You feel grumpy and negative about yourself, and you wonder if you’ll ever get your motivation and joy back.
I realized recently that being bored can become a habit. You get used to it and kind of resign yourself to a boring existence. Then you stop trying. Your flame of enthusiasm becomes a little ember that’s just flickering. You kind of die inside.
When you’re feeling this way, it’s easy to default to available, comfortable, feel-good pastimes and shallow pleasures and timewasters such as binge-watching TV, gaming, etc. Eventually you can find yourself spending more time in these activities, but still not feeling much better.
Maybe you can relate somewhat to that description, or maybe not. Such feelings are understandable, but the good news is that no matter what our circumstances and what losses we have sustained, we can rediscover our joy!
It’s important to remind ourselves that Jesus is the source of our joy. Knowing Him, staying close to Him and His Word, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and walking in obedience to our calling can infuse our lives with joy that is not dependent on physical circumstances.
We read this in Psalm 43:3, “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live.” (NLT) [The psalmist] sought after God, then committed to praise and trust Him no matter what, which is what we read in the next verse, “There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!” (Psalm 43:4 NLT)
Despite his heartache and overwhelming emotions, the psalmist remembered God truly was his only help and that GOD was always there, never forsaking him even when it felt like it.
If you’re feeling forgotten, by others or by God, let your hope swell and your joy return by intentionally believing that God will never leave you and is always by your side. Make a commitment to focus on God’s presence and the blessings He has given you, and let God be the source of your joy.1
The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.—Acts 13:52
The joy of the Lord is your strength.—Nehemiah 8:10
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.—Psalm 126:3 NIV
Besides centering our lives on God and His Word, and seeking to be filled with His Spirit, there are also practical “joy boosters”—that is, practical approaches that we can implement to enhance or recapture our joy. Let’s look at some ways in which we might do that. This is by no means a complete list, and if you take some time to think and pray about this, God can give you ideas that will work well for you personally.
Notice the little things.
Try to pay attention to even brief moments that bring joy; these could be the result of little things. Take a moment to intentionally thank God for the little wonders that inspire you. Once you are aware of the things that produce joy, think about how you can intentionally build more of those moments into your life.
It could be things like hearing a baby laugh, seeing a beautiful butterfly or playful puppy, laughing at a joke, eating a delicious dessert, hearing a beautiful song, feeling invigorated after a walk or exercise session, creating or appreciating a work of art, and so on. Let small things bring you joy!
Many people are so disconnected from joy that they aren’t even really familiar with what joy feels like in their body or what types of things bring them joy. A joy journal is a good place to start: Pay attention for a week or two to all the moments when you find yourself smiling or laughing or feeling a sense of joy wash over you. Notice where you are, whom you’re with, and what you’re doing—those can all be clues to the kinds of things that might bring you more joy. … The goal is to notice them, and once you notice what is causing them, you can re-create those conditions in your life.2
Allow time to do what brings you joy.
Maybe some of the things you enjoy doing don’t seem important enough to take the time. Perhaps it feels like a self-indulgent waste of time or a distraction to your more important goals. But it is important to consciously make time and space to enjoy life as you are able.
Take a minute to remember what you used to love to do and find a way to pick it up again. If things are different now, or you find that it doesn’t “bring you joy” anymore, try something else. When you’re in a blah state of mind, you often can’t think of anything that would make you feel better, but don’t resign yourself to that mindset. Stir yourself up, give yourself some time, find something you like to do and enjoy it!
Make a difference.
No matter how limited your circumstances, there is always something you can do to make things better. And making things better can give you a sense of fulfilment and enjoyment. Doing something for someone else, even something small, can bring you both joy. I think the following story illustrates this point well. The author wrote:
I was so touched by that story that I decided that I would also incorporate the idea of the “five-minute favor” in my life. I don’t live in Africa or have a ministry with the very poor, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I needed a new challenge, I was bored.
Soon after this commitment, I went to the grocery store. To give a bit of the back story: In a previous visit to this store a week or two earlier I had been trying to return an item at the customer service desk. I was having trouble with the transaction as I didn’t have my glasses and I kept entering the PIN number incorrectly. I noticed I was being attended by the store manager. The store was busy. While helping me, the manager was constantly approached by all kinds of people—customers, employees, suppliers, etc., and he was kind and polite with each one. He kept smiling as he’d turn to me and with a kind voice say, “Shall we try it again?” He never once lost his composure or seemed bothered at all.
So the next time I went to the store and passed by the same man, I thought, Ah, here’s an opportunity for a five-minute favor. But I quickly started to talk myself out of it. I’m in a hurry. And besides, he’s busy.
But no! I turned around and walked up to him, then asked, “Are you the manager?” His serene expression quickly changed, and he got a concerned look on his face that seemed to say, Oh no, what’s wrong now?!
I reminded him of our previous encounter, then I said, “I just want to compliment you on your kindness. You make a difference in people’s lives every day with the patience and consideration you show and with that constant smile of yours.”
He was literally speechless! After a few seconds, all he could say was, “Oh wow! Thank you for telling me.”
That was it. This just took a couple of minutes, but it made a difference not only for him but for me, too. I felt a sense of joy and enthusiastically told my friends about this. The “five-minute favor”—I highly recommend it!
Take inventory of what saps your joy.
Happiness can be circumstantial and fleeting, but joy is a gift from God, and we can have joy even in difficult circumstances. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”3 But it’s important to recognize the things in our lives that steal our joy, the “killjoys.” Here’s an excerpt of a helpful article:
Life, even for the best of us, has its ups and downs. That is not going to change, but there is a way to make the “ups” far more common than the “downs.” The key is to strive for joy rather than happiness.
The difference between the two is significant. Happiness is based on circumstances. If things are going well, we are happy, if they’re not, we are unhappy. Unfortunately, circumstances in today’s world are usually poor, so happiness is becoming more and more elusive.
Joy, on the other hand, is not tied to circumstances. Rather, it is the positive confidence one feels from knowing and trusting God regardless of circumstances. Joy is a key component of what Galatians 5 calls the “fruit of the Spirit.” It is a gift from God, but we must prepare our hearts to receive it by first identifying and eliminating those things that are robbing us of joy. There are three primary killjoys: selfishness, resentment and fear.4
It’s important to avoid letting negative emotions, thoughts, or moods take hold in our lives. The killjoys mentioned—selfishness, resentment, and fear—can grow with time and become habits or automatic reactions. If you have allowed any of these killjoys to take root in your life, take time to pray and connect with God through His Word in the Bible. You can have a fresh start beginning today!
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.—Psalm 94:19 NIV
Remember that the source of our joy is Jesus.
In the world, happiness is often associated with appearance, wealth, relationships, possessions, etc. The message the world is sending is that happiness comes from outside ourselves. We’re bombarded with messages that circumstances control our sense of joy. But in reality, our joy comes from Jesus.