The Power of Practicing Joy

I read this quote the other day and I've been sitting with it ever since--just absorbing what it means to me.  Here it is: 
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. - Thich Nhat Hanh
Maybe you've heard that old chestnut: "Fake it 'til you make it."  That's not quite what Hanh's quote is conveying, but it's not far off.  I wouldn't use the phrase "fake it," though.  What I would say instead is "Practice it 'til you make it."

And that, my friends, is harder than it sounds... especially when you are not feeling a whole lot of joy inside.

We all get this.  When you are going through a difficult season in life it's hard to put a smile on your face.  When you're agonizing over the loss of a loved one, a relationship, your health, a career... it's not easy to grin, is it?

There are plenty of days when I find that I am struggling to smile.  Some days I feel the loss of my mother deeply.  Or I feel overwhelmed by all of the demands on my time.  I also struggle at times to believe that I can be good.  I find myself angry and wounded by all the hate in the world. 

But what Hahn is saying here is that if you practice joy, if you do the things that foster a sense of joy within you, that's when change occurs. 

It could be that practicing gratitude each day would begin your inside/out transformation.  Simply offering thanks for all of the blessings in your life as you go through your day is a form of smiling.

But I believe that for those of us who claim to follow Jesus the best and surest way to allow our "smile" to permeate our being is by joyfully loving and serving others.  Theologian and author David Dark puts it like this:
I believe holiness blooms and blossoms when we hear and heed, in our hurry and our weakness, in our depression and disinterestedness, the command to love others as we hope to be loved. 
When we allow ourselves to step outside of our own struggles and begin to seek the arrival of the kingdom of God in the lives of those around us, we will eventually discover (as Jesus said) that all the things we've been struggling to find will soon find us. 

May this be true for you today and every day.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 


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