Sep 29 2021

Maintaining Joy

Pastor Dave Koppel

I have the privilege of mentoring a young man who lives quite some distance away. One day he sent me a list of questions, and I thought I would share my answers with all of you each week for the next several weeks—not that I think that I have all the answers, but I do think that many of us are asking the same questions…so let’s start this week with joy and positivity.

How do you maintain joy?

What does “practicing positivity” look like in your life?

These are two very different questions. To me, joy depends not on circumstances or even the way I choose to respond to circumstances, but rather joy comes from the Lord. Joy comes in knowing that Jesus thought I was worth dying for. Joy comes in knowing that ultimately God triumphs, and good triumphs over evil and that there’s a place for me in heaven with my Lord. When that’s my foundation, I can maintain joy no matter what happens around me and to me.

That foundation is an ever-present source of strength. It’s seeing things not necessarily as they presently are but as they will be in God’s Kingdom.

Practicing positivity is different. Some people think that happiness is simply a response to one’s current situation. Here’s what I found: if you chase after happiness, you probably will never find it. It’s elusive. And it’s not an end in itself, but it’s a byproduct. I have often found I am happiest when I am helping other people reach their goals. Or when I’m working hard just to help somebody. I’m happy when I can make a difference, especially in somebody else’s life. That is to say that when I’m doing something good, something helpful, something meaningful, that I feel happy. By the way, I think God made us that way for a reason. We’re made to be in a relationship with one another. We’re made to help one another.

Practicing positivity, or choosing happiness, has very little to do with one’s circumstances. My friend Dale used to tell me, “Positive thinking isn’t the be-all-end-all, but it certainly beats the alternative.”

For me, practicing positivity and choosing happiness is something I do every day. I get up in the morning and get on my bicycle and head out on the open road. And while I’m cycling, I pray. And when I pray, I usually start with thanking God for who He is, for what He’s done, for what He’s doing, and for what He will do. Then I often list things that I am thankful for, all gifts from God. Whether we’re talking about creation or my family, or we’re talking about the congregation I serve…it’s just any number of things.

When I do that, it sets the tone for my day. I start with an attitude of gratitude. I start with thankfulness, and it points me in a positive direction emotionally and spiritually for the day.

We get to choose our attitude for the day. So often, people let the day’s circumstances determine their attitude, but the truth is we get to choose it. Imagine that somebody you don’t know cuts you off in traffic on the way to work in the morning. You might get frustrated; you might get angry. If you let it, that might set your tone for the whole day. But why should you let somebody you don’t even know, somebody who may not even realize that they cut you off decide your attitude for the day? They’re just off on their merry way, having a good day. Why should you let that make you grumpy and irritable for the rest of the day? There are all kinds of blessings waiting for you at work or school. Why not focus on that?

Abraham Lincoln put it this way, “Most people are about as happy as they make their mind up to be.” That’s the truth. You get to choose your attitude. You can make that a conscious choice every day. You can take a break when you’re upset and ask yourself, “Is this going to matter a hundred years from now?” If the answer is no, it is probably not a good reason to let circumstances dictate your mood for the day.

Make it a great day.

In His grip,