Bad weather and cooped up kids can be problematic—energy to burn and nowhere to go. Such was the case one very stormy season when my kids were little. We were hit with a record number of storms . . . one after another for weeks. As the days passed, we all became a bit cranky. So, we built tents, read books, played games, and watched hours of TV. I remember creating crazy obstacle courses that included running down halls, jumping jacks, hopscotch, rolling or pushing soccer balls, basketballs, tennis balls, and even cotton balls, carrying things, and tossing stuff into buckets . . . hoping that exhaustion would provide an attitude adjustment. What was I thinking? It was still stormy, and everyone was physically spent and very snappy.
The real problem
When the storms raged on, and games and tents and all weren’t helping, it was time to address the real problem: we had stinky attitudes. So, I made up another game. I found a bag of those little, plastic bead-like things we had used for a school project. I named them “joy beads” and quietly hid them everywhere—inside and outside the house. Some were easy to see while others weren’t found for weeks. They were in a sock or shoe, pockets, pencil holders, pots and pans, under beds and pillows, in toy buckets, on bookshelves, or shoved in a flower arrangement or a folded towel. Everywhere. Then, the game began—who could find the most “joy”; and since they were everywhere, the simple game on a stormy day became a profound life lesson.
Joy versus happiness
Most of us believe that joy is a by-product of being happy or comfortable. But an attitude of joy is altogether different. It’s a contented peace that resides in our souls regardless of our circumstances. Our joy beads brought this to light as they were found while we were doing “less-than-happy” or fun things. For example, we found joy (our beads) while pulling weeds, folding laundry, cleaning up the toy buckets, setting the dinner table, and serving one another. They showed up when obedience was being tested, such as going to bed on time (one fell out of the pillowcase) or putting on a jacket (one was found in the coat pocket). Significantly, joy beads even fell out of the Kleenex box when tears needed to be dried. Learning there could be a bit of joy in suffering, in acts of serving, sacrificing, obedience, and even discomfort imparted the truth that happiness comes and goes but joy can remain regardless.
Joy beads in Scripture
I know it is terribly hard to find joy when seasons of life are stormy and full of sorrow, but remember: joy is the contented place of peace in the soul. Here’s a snapshot of scriptural joy.
There is joy in the Lord as our refuge (Psalm 5:11) and our strength (Psalm 21:1) . . . in all creation (Psalm 65:13) . . . when we choose obedience (Psalm 19:8) . . . when we are patient in affliction and faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12) . . . when God is our trust (Romans 15:13) . . . in being together (2 Corinthians 2:3–4) . . . when we are loved (2 Corinthians 7:7) . . . in sacrifice, prayer, being like-minded, and content (Philippians 1 and 2) . . . that’s just a beginning.
My friend, how can I help you find God’s joy for you? I invite you to share with me the circumstances or challenges you have, and I’ll go looking for some of life’s “joy beads” with you.