JOY AND INTENTION

September 1, 2020

I think we can all agree that 2020 has already been quite a challenging year. There have been plenty of things at home and in the news to distract us, cause us to worry, or dampen our mood. For some you, you probably felt plenty challenged long before 2020 landed on us all like a ton of bricks.

I get it. It’s hard.

Now more than ever, we each really need a little joy in our lives.

Sounds simple, yet we know when there is a lot going on around us, our joy has a tendency to get lost.

 

Joy vs. Happiness

Contrary to what you might first think, these two words are not synonymous. Our joy does not equal our happiness. Thank goodness, considering none of us can be happy all the time. Dr. Todd Phillips states “Happiness is driven by your circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is the ability to experience peace and contentment day in and day out, regardless of circumstances.”

Regardless.

Regardless of new Illnesses, being at home with our spouse 24/7, finances, job security, and the uncertainty of the kids’ school situation. Regardless of all the other ‘joy stealers’ I could list, too.

Happiness is temporary and conditional. It’s influenced by our surroundings. When John forgets to pick up the dogs’ medicine after I’ve reminded him twice, neither of us is happy!

But joy. Joy is an internal condition. It’s a choice we must continually make, and it dictates our attitude and approach to life, even the messy parts. It comes from a place of contentment, accepting what we cannot change and with an extra heaping dose of grace, mercy, and forgiveness for the broken world around us.

It’s why I can be unhappy with John for forgetting the meds and still find joy and contentment in my marriage with him. But it isn’t easy.

Distractions Steal Our Joy

When a crisis hits, we get tempted to forgo joy and instead focus our attention exclusively on the problem at hand. We essentially become a slave to how we feel about our circumstances. Worry, stress, and anger become distractions that put emotional distance between us and the things that can bring us joy, even during the toughest times.

I mention worry because it is a big distraction for me personally that prevents me from being emotionally present in my relationships. I find I have to be very intentional about not burying myself in the million ‘what if’s’ that exists with owning a business, raising kids, and all the other uncertainty life is throwing at us. It can be a daily struggle for me. For some of you, social media, smartphones, or even Netflix can also be guilty pleasures that quickly turn into distractions as well. I see a lot of couples who use these to avoid the pain and distance they are each feeling in their relationship.

The good news is that joy can – and should – exist in even the toughest of times. In fact, it can make us happier to allow joy to play a role in our struggles! Positive feelings like joy can be stress-relieving, giving our minds time to rest, and helping us see our problems from a new perspective.

 

Joy Requires Intentionality

My marriage to John is one of the things that brings me great joy because I’ve made the decision to be content, even on those days where I may not otherwise be very happy. As joy originates from within, it isn’t dependent on a perfect environment or perfect spouse – which is a good thing! It does, however, require us to be intentional in seeking it out. You have to find joy.

2020 has served as a swift kick in the backside to remind me that neither the world around me – nor my spouse or my marriage – is responsible for my joy. I am. I like to think about it in terms of us each holding the keys to our very own joy bus! I’m going to date myself and tell you that as I wrote this, it reminded me of the old 70’s Partridge Family show with the catchy theme song and their crazy family tour bus! “Come on get happyyyyy!” Sing it with me!

All kidding aside, it’s one thing to know joy comes from within, and a whole other thing to know what to do to create or rekindle your joy. Without joy, life is lonely.

At The Marriage Place, our team cares about helping you find reclaim the joy in your life and in your marriage. Our relationship experts can help you learn how to be more intentional in ways that benefit both you and your spouse.

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