"Joy" by Deanna Bartalini (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2016 Deanna Bartalini. All rights reserved.

Joy. I often ponder joy in my life and not just at this time of year. What brings us joy? What does it mean to be joyful? How can one be joyful when life circumstances seem quite contrary to joy?

Joy is one of the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23,

“In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

Paul is contrasting them to the works of the flesh such as envy, selfishness and fury among others. Of course, one would choose joy over those. But sometimes it is hard to choose what we know is better. I know I need to work on cultivating the fruits of the Spirit; they do not come naturally to me. And cultivating them requires more effort than keeping my “natural” hair color.

How does one cultivate joy? Well, many years ago, I heard a homily on one way that I think bears repeating. Joy is a word but we can also look at it as an acronym, “Jesus, Others, You.“ if we order our life in that way, putting Jesus first, Others next and You last we will have JOY! If we order our lives the way the world tells us, “You, Others, Jesus” we have YOJ which doesn’t spell a darn thing!

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How do we put Jesus first? Prayer, reading scripture, receiving Eucharist, Adoration all quickly come to mind. Then confession comes in along with being mindful of how I spend my time. Asking, how should I spend my time, money, and talents today rather than asking my plan to be blessed.

Putting him first consistently helps us take care of others. Jesus gives us the strength we need to do the one more thing when we’d rather not.

Then we come to you. Maybe you don’t feel like putting Jesus and others before yourself has given you much joy at all. Maybe you feel as if no one is really paying attention or is grateful. Those are not feelings of joy at all and difficult to overcome sometimes. It happens to me more often than I’d like. I default to one of two possibilities. I complain, mostly to or about my husband, which is not good or I turn to prayer. I lay it all out there, all the feelings of being taken advantage of and unappreciated and talents going to waste and on and on. When I turn to prayer I am nudged to remember the email thanking me or the flowers from my husband or my favorite song comes on the radio. I am reminded, some way, that I want to choose joy. And so, I do. I choose joy. It may not be a full-on, dancing in the streets, raising my hands and praising Jesus way but I choose joy. And it helps.

Many years ago, a friend gave me this definition of joy:

“Christian joy lies beyond the realm of feelings and emotions. It is a fundamental disposition and stance toward life. It is the knowledge that having prayed and surrendered, God hears the hopes and desires of my heart and will respond in a timely, appropriate way.” (Instruments of Christ: Reflections on the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi)

My goal is to have that Christian joy. I pray that you have it too.

How do you cultivate joy in your life?

Copyright 2016 Deanna Bartalini