People around the world are experiencing great trials and suffering, due to the current pandemic. In the midst of such fear and uncertainty, it can be difficult to find things to be happy about. But as Christians we know that, despite these difficulties, we actually have the ability to go beyond happiness and live lives of joy.
When it comes to finding and cultivating joy, faith plays a big role. To talk about that, Jim Otremba, a licensed independent clinical social worker, stopped by Morning Air® and shared ways that we can cultivate joy in our daily lives.
On the difference between happiness and joy, Otremba said, “Joy is much deeper than happiness. I think joy, fundamentally, is a decision and a mindset. It’s a decision to cultivate the fruit of joy. Because that’s what we read in Galatians, that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s something given to us at Baptism and again renewed in Confirmation.”
While happiness is often dependent on our circumstances, joy is something more foundational that is not as easily shaken by the world around us.
“Typically, we don’t feel happy until external things are going fine or kind of in order,” Otremba acknowledged. “But we can decide to feel joy or rejoice in the Lord always, as Philippians 4:4 tells us. We have so many saint’s lives that are just phenomenal, filled with a lot of suffering, but a lot of joy.”
As Christians, the source of our joy is found in the Good News of Jesus Christ. Otremba pointed out that our faith is our foundation because we know that even our suffering can bring us closer to the Lord.
Otremba explained, “Joy is understanding everything in the context of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit. I mean, if you really shake it down, the Paschal Mystery is the source of our joy. Knowing that whatever I go through, God can use it for good.”
So how do we cultivate joy in our daily lives? “First thing is to start with prayer,” suggested Otremba. “I mean really pray to Abba, our Heavenly Father, our provider, our protector, our daddy. … We want to be intentional. That’s why this first step is to pray about not letting our joy get robbed away, and to recognize that we need to trust in God. Because trusting in God can help us increase our joy when we’re able to focus on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to love God and love our neighbor. And when it comes to cultivating joy, the answer is similar. Joy can be found in Christ’s love for us, and in our neighbor’s example of their love of Christ.
“We really want to make sure that nobody robs us of our joy, especially toxic interactions, toxic social dynamics, whatever we’re going through. One of the things I like to focus on is the body of Christ,” Otremba explained. “We’re each one of us different, we can learn from each other. We learn deep lessons from each other, and so learning from a joyful person is critically important.”
“If you’re listening and you’re thinking you could use more joy in your life, say a prayer to intentionally talk to God about cultivating joy. But also, the second thing you can do is think about who is joyful in your life. Who did you see as a joyful person that you know personally? Not somebody that you don’t know personally, but you have a personal relationship with this person. What do they do? Think about their habits, learn from them, because if it’s authentic joy they’re doing something in their life that can help all of us learn about that. The saints are great examples there, to learn from people who are joyful.”
Listen to the full conversation with Jim Otremba below: