Christian Joy can build thick skin
How does joy in Jesus build thick skin? Sure, cutting down wood can build calluses on your hands to make thick skin. Constant exposure to the elements can also toughen your skin as well. But joy? Turns out, changing the mindset to reflect a more positive tone can influence the other areas of your life.
We see evidence of this in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 8:2:
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
We learn a number of details in this verse. The Macedonian churches were poor. Paul uses a superlative to describe their privations. They apparently did not have much. To add to their economic woes, they were in the middle of a severe trial. The chapter does not make it clear what trials they faced, but Paul again uses a superlative to describe the direness of the situation. However, Paul cites a small factor that led to the fruit of rich generosity. They were filled with overflowing joy. Paul again uses a superlative to describe their joy. Despite the conditions they endured, their joy led them to generosity. The verses following indicate they urgently desired to be part of the mission of the church. They wanted a hand in it, to the point where they even surprised Paul! Wow. If we were in that situation it would be very hard to maintain an upbeat face.
Yet this is the reality of Christian joy. It builds thick skin. We can respond to situations that come our way with dread (the expected and accepted way of dealing with it) or put it in a Christian context and look beyond the present day to what remains in store for the people of God.
We recently posted an article about depression to make it clear that the solution to life’s problems is not as simple as “turning your frown upside down.” The Bible never indicates that the Christian walk will be easy. In fact Jesus tells his followers multiples times of the trials they would face for being Christian. This is a reality to accept for following God and taking the narrow road. We cannot always control the external circumstances that come our way, however, we can control our behavior towards them (to an extent of course).
Do not take this passage to mean that if you are not happy that means you are not giving enough. We definitely are not trying to solicit funds by promising happiness. We are, however, suggesting that the tough times become slightly more bearable when we are filled with overflowing joy.
How do we become more joyful in Jesus?
In her book, Presence, Harvard psychologist provides extensive research on how our actions can and do affect our mindset. One example is the old adage, “I sing because I’m happy.” Sure enough, a quick reflection reveals that it is easier to put a smile on our face when times are good. However, the inverse is also true: “I’m happy because I sing.” Studies show that chemicals in the brain that control your attitudes are altered based on what you are doing. In other words, even if you don’t feel like singing, singing anyways can turn your mindset from being sour to being happy! Even a 5 minute stretch in the morning where you spread your arms and legs out (a sign of dominance) can boost your confidence levels and give you the self-esteem you need to conquer the day. You may not feel like it, but it does help!
The Christian struggling to remain joyful should know that life is indeed tough. There is no sugar coating that fact. Some of us have it tougher than others. But this is why community is important! Paul received encouragement on his missions from the communities that he ministered to. The Bible is full of the importance of community (think Godhead, twelve disciples, churches, groups of missionaries going out in pairs, etc). The last thing you want to do is administer a complete isolation from the family of God to make you happy. No, you do not have to be present 100% of the time, and yes, there will be times where it is necessary to take a vacation and be alone with God. But the Christian walk is one of action. We can acknowledge the trials of life, but we can also find joy in what Jesus has done for us and what He will do for us. Christian Joy feeds actions, and actions feed your joy.