One of the evil one’s tactics, I believe, is to cause us to focus on the worst aspects of any given experience or situation, thus stealing joy from even the best that life has to offer. This causes people to miss the many blessings God has strewn across their path, instead viewing life as drudgery to be endured.
I know people like this. Don’t you?
They seem content wallowing in their misery. They offer many more complaining words than those tinged with happiness or gratitude. To them, there is no God; or if there is, they think they can keep Him in a box that only gets opened on special occasions.
I don’t see the point in forcing this perspective on the one life we’ve been given to live.
On the contrary, I think we should be stealing joy back from that vile creature, the devil.
How are we to do that? Here are a few thoughts.
One thing I like to do is replace negative thoughts with positive ones. That is, if I find myself thinking of something negative about an experience I’m having, I try to grab hold of it and look for something positive about the experience. Then I replace the negative thought with the positive one in the narrative I’m telling myself about what I’m doing.
For example, my wife and I are blessed enough to be on a little vacation in Florida at the moment. We had the opportunity to go on a boat with friends a couple of days ago. While we were out on the water, the wind picked up and the waves got a bit choppy. I don’t love a bouncy boat ride, so that could have defined my experience. Instead, I put my head back and relished the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the sea spray on my skin. Back home, it was snowing. As it turned out, there were many more things to be grateful for than there were to complain about.
Another simple technique for stealing joy back from the clutches of the evil one is to be intentional about looking for the many simple blessings God hides in plain sight throughout each of our days. See things you’ve looked at a thousand times through new eyes. When was the last time you marveled at a brief light show caused by sunlight dancing through trees waving in the breeze? Or how long has it been since you were amazed by the sheer vastness of the sky, and wondered how it is that the God who created something so big could bend down so far from heaven so He could see you face-to-face? What about closing your eyes to breathe deeply the scent of someone you love, or to remind yourself how much you cherish the sound of their laughter?
Stealing joy back may be as simple as keeping a running list throughout each day of blessings, no matter how minuscule or mind-blowing, and then thanking God for them as your evening draws to a close. It is well within our grasp. There are miracles in every minute. It’s up to each of us whether we want to let the evil one steal, kill, and destroy our joy, or if we want to steal it back.
Which one will you choose?
Postscript: in this blog post, I am providing some thoughts on how to improve your outlook on life–at least some things that have worked for me and helped me assume a more consistent posture of gratitude toward the Giver of all blessings. I recognize, however, that there are many real mental health issues that people struggle with that cannot be addressed using techniques like this, and I do not mean to downplay these issues. If you or someone you know wrestles with mental health challenges, it would be best for you to seek help from a licensed mental health professional or your pastor.