Remember when the Everyday Joy blog series went from being a weekly to a monthly thing?
As we reflect on the joy of Christ this third Advent week, I couldn’t think of a better time to talk about joy. There are just so many things to be joyful about and thankful for, aren’t there? Even in the hard times, there is still joy for those in Christ.
This month’s joy interview features Christian author and fellow blogger Amy Lively. I first encountered Amy while I was in the middle of writing my book (publishing date TBD). When I sat down to write one day, I found myself in a rut. I knew the best way to get out of it was to seek inspiration from other Christian authors who have traveled the road I am walking. So I went to the local Christian bookstore, where I wrote down the names of a few Christian women I could reach out to on book writing.
I don’t know if it was her name (Lively is a great name, don’t you think? It just emanates energy!) or the authenticity of her book How to Love Your Neighbor, but I knew I had to get to know Amy. And today I want you to have a chance to get to know her to. So without further adieu, here’s an inside look at Amy’s thoughts on spreading joy to our neighbors and how to be joyful in all circumstances.
P.S. Amy is graciously giving away one copy of her book How to Love Your Neighbor to one lucky reader today! Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter the giveaway.
How would you describe joy and what makes it different from happiness?
My joy is in my salvation and my Savior; My happiness is in my circumstances. I’m happy when life feels good, when there’s money in the bank and I’m having a good hair day, when my family is behaving and my neighbors are being nice. But I’m joyful when I’m sick and broke, when my heart is broken, when I’m clinging to hope by a thin thread. I can be joyful because I know that God loves me no matter what, He is watching over me and protecting me and providing for me even when I don’t “feel” Him. Joy is deeper, fuller, richer and realer than happiness. Happiness feels good but it is fleeting. I love to be happy — everyone does! — and I want my neighbors to be happy. But the “pursuit of happiness” is not a God-given right, it is a man-made concoction that only leads to despair. If we would pursue joy — oh, boy! — we would find happiness indeed.
How have your life experiences impacted your view of joy?
I’m at a time in my life where I have peace on every side. My family is well. My marriage is strong. My career is going well. We’ve just moved to a new home and we are truly enjoying our new community. And my faith is deep, I know we have prayed through this transition and followed God’s will to this place. I am in that pleasant place where I am both happy and joyful. But I’m careful to remember and remind myself of other times in my life when life gave no logical reason to be happy… dark, desperate times when the present was bleak and the future was unimaginable. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was also in God’s will during those times. He was as present and active in my darkest times as He is today. I was able to find joy in those terrible times because I was leaning on God as never before. I learned more about His faithfulness and lovingkindness during those times than I ever could on a sunshiny day with no clouds of doubt and loneliness. Just because I’m unhappy doesn’t mean God is unhappy with me. On the other hand, just because I’m happy doesn’t mean God is happy with me. I ask Him to show me my own heart, and reveal any areas where I’m hiding from Him or trying to manufacture my own joy.
Why is joy important?
We are a shallow people if we don’t have joy. We won’t have hope, we won’t have peace, if we don’t have joy. Look around: your neighbors are seeking happiness in all the wrong places. They’re looking at the mall, at the gym, on the internet. When Jesus saw people lost and broken, He was moved with compassion. I pray that we, too, would be moved toward our neighbors to share the joy unshakable found only in a reconciled relationship with God.
Where do you find joy?
I find joy in obedience. God has asked me to do big, scary things — like invite my neighbors over for coffee! That did not make me happy one bit. It made me afraid, and my fear made me run from Him. I didn’t want to do what He had asked, so I created excuses. I delayed, I disobeyed—and then He disciplined me, because that’s what loving parents do. When I finally did what He asked me to do, I found joy in obedience even though the process was scary. But guess what happened? In His generosity and abundance, He eventually brought me happiness through the relationships I made with my neighbors! Until we obey, we never know the joy God has planned for us.
What daily strategies help you focus on joy when times are tough?
When times are tough, I ask myself if God is calling me to Himself through the adversity. Is He teaching me something? Revealing something about Himself? Sometimes the joy is found buried under layers of complex situations that I have to sift through to find His truth. I look for areas where I have created my own tough times through my disobedience or rebellion, them confess that and turn a new track. I also pray against spiritual warfare and try to be aware of the battle in the heavenlies against all believers.
“How to Love Your Neighbor” Book Giveaway