A 5-day devotional on living a life filled with joy, regardless of life’s circumstances. Learn how to live from the inside out, as Donna Lasit shares some keys to finding joy in our everyday lives.
Day 1 – An Inside-Out Kind of JOY.
Psalms 16:11 (ESV) You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
How are you feeling today about that word? Does it make you feel hopeful as you begin this devotional? Or maybe you are feeling a little hesitant to hope for something that feels impossible.
My heart is not to set you up for another disappointing journey. Some of you are going through unimaginable things. Some of you are in the throes of depression and are carrying some pretty heavy burdens. This last season hasn’t been easy for so many. Isolation has derailed relationships, the economy has sent many into financial tailspins, division has ripped through families and communities, and fear has gripped many of us! We have had a lot of things pressing in on us from the outside, stripping us of some joy, haven’t we?
What I want to say to you, in all honesty, is this: I am so excited that you joined me for this journey! Not because I have a spiritual “magic pill” for you to take that will assure you of a life filled with joy. But because I have seen God do something inside my heart. God has shifted me from feeling like life was an emotional roller coaster, where everything on the outside affected what was going on inside me, to something quite different. I still experience sadness, heartbreak, all the things in life that happen to us humans. But there is this anchor now that holds through the pressure of those storms. This anchor helps me live with a kind of inner joy that presses out into how I even view my circumstances.
I will get right to the point. This anchor is God’s PRESENCE. That is what holds me! When all else fades away, His presence fills me with something inside. Something called JOY that no circumstances can steal from me.
I promise you, this is not a “rah rah, think positive thoughts, happy, happy, happy” type devotional. I’m just not into that sort of thing. It feels empty, unauthentic, and lifeless, which doesn’t reflect the life that God has for us at all. Instead, God wants to fill us with a joy that starts on the inside and pushes out to impact our lives and everyone around us.
Recently, I attended a funeral for an incredible young man that had Cerebral Palsy, as well as some other serious health conditions. I can honestly say I have never been more impacted by a service like this before. We had only known this young man for a couple years, but the inner joy that exuded from him was like nothing I have ever seen. His parents would wheel him into church, and his smile would light up the room. I miss him. He worshipped with all of his heart as his shining face would reflect this inner delight of being with Jesus. Though his mind was sharp as a tack, he couldn’t talk like you and I, he had to painstakingly talk through a special computer, which he had mastered using a technique with his head. He couldn’t walk or use his hands very well, or do so many things that you and I do without even thinking. His mom shared about his journey to accept the way he was, and used Judson’s speaking device to read a poem that he had written and recorded. I assure you, there was not a dry eye in that room.
The last line I will never forget. “I am happy with the way I am.” In the natural, my mind couldn’t understand how this young man could be so filled with joy, so filled with gratitude and zest for life, despite the pain and limitations that his body had.
Nurses shared about the joy he brought into the hospital, where he had spent more than his share of time. Teachers talked about the joy he brought into school. And every family member could not help but mention this contagious joy that he had. How could Judson be so filled with joy that he had impacted everyone around him in such a great way?
He lived an inside-out life! His life was so filled with God’s presence, it pushed out into his perspective on everything else in his life. All you had to do was be friends with him on Facebook to know this. His last post was just weeks before he met his precious Jesus face to face, and it read, “I am so excited to see Jesus soon.” Jesus had filled his heart with this joy and peace that had nothing to do with his body, his circumstances, or anything else. It was an inside-out, contagious kind of joy.
I have heard it said that the difference between joy and happiness is that happiness depends on what “happens.” Joy, however, is something that you choose.
But choosing joy is more than a simple mental exercise of the will, isn’t it? It has to come from a revelation of something deeper rather than an emotion that can be chosen with the mind.
If you will allow me, I want to get a little personal with you. These last 18 months hit me over the head, maybe like they hit you. In 26 years of ministry, I have never seen division, strife, polarization, anger, hate, and generally shocking behavior in the world like I have this last year and a half. The church world didn’t escape this either. As we began to navigate this season as pastors, we experienced “lose/lose” scenarios at every turn. It felt like we couldn’t win! There were no good feelings walking into an empty church, where maybe the only person that talked to me was complaining about how we were handling the pandemic. We got floods of emails, people mad at us on all sides of every issue, we got literal hate mail on our desks & in our social media inboxes, we were attacked publicly and on all platforms. Never in my life have I ever experienced such negativity in the church. My safe place was no longer safe.
I don’t say all this to make you feel sorry for me! In fact, God worked the most beautiful thing in my life, that I will treasure forever. I remember sitting at my desk last fall, pivoting for the millionth time as we prepared for Beautiful Conference 2020. I put my head down, and the Lord spoke this word JOY into my spirit. I laughed. But not the happy kind of laugh, more like the “really?” kind of laugh. God began to speak to me that day. It has been a journey back to true joy. I didn’t wake up one day with the happy emotion fully intact. I had to get back to His presence. In the midst of life over this last season, I had been so distracted by leading through a global pandemic, that I had neglected to sit and wait in God’s presence. Without even realizing it, my time with Jesus had become more of an exercise than a delight.
But it is only in His presence that fullness of joy comes. It has been a daily re-learning journey with Jesus teaching me. So I don’t write all this as an expert, but as a recent and current student praying that I can give you hope today. Jesus can take our messes, our exhaustion, and breathe new life and lasting joy into our hearts.
If your “happenstance” is impacting you today, remember this – joy cannot be found in life’s pleasures. Joy cannot be found by searching for the greatest experiences, accumulating the most wealth, or exploring the most exciting adventures. That might give you happiness for the moment. But the moment soon fades, and you need another hit of “happy.” So off you go to surpass your last “happy.” Chasing happiness and joy is as futile as a puppy chasing its tail. It moves just as you almost have it. Fullness of joy can only be found in His presence.
As we finish day one, I want to bring us back to Psalm 16:11. This verse is so simple, yet holds so much significance. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
God wants us at His “right hand.” Right by His side. The writer knows that a person with the highest rank stood to the king’s right side, at his right hand. It represents closeness. Even today we refer to someone being our “right hand man,” or “wingman” if you are a Top Gun fan.
It is this kind of closeness to His presence that God is inviting us into today. He is waiting for you right now to sit in His presence. I get this picture of Jesus reaching over to the seat right next to him, motioning you to join Him there. He has a seat reserved just for you. It is there that your journey to this inside-out joy will begin.
So breathe deeply today. Invite God’s presence to fill your atmosphere today.
My inside-out work:
What is your joy level today? Are you living inside-out or outside-in? Have you been chasing happiness and joy in the right places? Be honest with Jesus today.
Write out Psalm 16:11 and put it somewhere visible as a reminder that God’s word promises you fullness of joy. Remind yourself daily that God wants to lead us on this path, He wants us right there with Him, close at His right hand, where He has pleasures awaiting us.
My JOY declaration today:
Today, I lean my heart into You, Jesus, and I take you at Your word. I believe that You are leading me and making known my path to life today. Your presence is where I find my joy, not in my emotions or my circumstances. Teach me today to live inside-out.