ABOUT AUDREY CAYLIN
Audrey Caylin is a full-time dreamer and aspiring independent author with a mission to bring hope to the world through her writing. Being a ghostwriter for God is her greatest joy and honor as she weaves stories of faith and feeling for other young adults. When she’s not writing or dreaming, she’ll probably be driving along the coast with the windows rolled down or with her face tilted to the sky on a rainy day. Check out her blog here
Hello! I’m very excited to be guest posting on Chelsea’s blog today! The moment I learned the topic for the post, I immediately remembered a moment this time last year when I first heard about the concept of ‘a word for the year.
So, at the start of 2017, I decided to choose a said-word for the year. The word would be something I would strive to have the next 365 days be about. I chose the word joy—something that had often eluded me in 2016.
I thought I’d chosen a very simple word, something that would be relatively easy to execute with a little mindfulness. Joy is just a decision, after all, I concluded. Being joyful simply takes a decision to live, well, joyfully.
But what is joy?
Look it up in the dictionary, and you get this: a state of happiness or felicity. But you look it up in the bible, and you get the impression that joy is different. Joy is not a synonym for happiness; joy is deeper, joy is eternal, joy is constant.
How do we capture that in our everyday lives?
Through the first months of the year, I tried to be joyful, pondering how to live a constantly joyful lifestyle. I wrote journal entries about joy and even started a Pinterest board with things relating to it.
Yet every time I felt what I assumed was joyful, I soon fell back into a melancholy, confused state. My joy did not last. It felt brief, precarious, easily dragged down by the troubles of life. I picked myself up and tried to be joyful again, only to fall and repeat the cycle almost daily.
As the year went on, I spent more time realizing what did not create joy rather than discovering what does. I even wrote up a list, something along the lines of:
Joy is not in checked marks.
Joy is not in success.
Joy is not in free schedules.
Joy is not in full schedules.
Joy is not found in worldly riches.
Joy is not an emotion.
Last month, I concluded that joy is not caused by any earthly experience because it isn’t of the world: it’s of God.
Joy is only in God, and everything related to Him. I find joy in my writing. Take God away from that, and, no, I would probably not find joy in my writing. I might find happiness, but happiness is brief, like the world.
Joy, on the other hand, is eternal. But did doing things strictly related to God and for God create joy in me? Briefly, they did, but something still didn’t feel right. I could not fully grasp joy.
As the last days of the year rushed toward me, I begged God to teach me what joy was and how to find it before 2017 was over. And at that moment, it struck me: I had been trying to find joy by myself. Through my own efforts. And how could I, a mere, material creature, soul though I have, obtain something that is purely spiritual, eternal, and heavenly.
That’s just it—it’s not possible. Yet I spent so much time chasing after joy by myself, ending up back where I had started each time. Me, in my nothingness could not obtain something that was of the great One who Is—I AM WHO AM.
Joy, like grace, can only come from God. Opening my bible, the pages parted to reveal one of my favorite verses, though it wasn’t until that moment that I truly realized how much it applied to my situation:
“Until now you have asked nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24.
For some reason, it had never occurred to me until reading that verse for the hundredth time that I could just ask God for joy. In all honesty, it’s probably because I’m often an ‘I’ll do it myself’ sort of person, hesitating to ask for help.
Maybe that’s what God was trying to teach me: He wants us to ask Him for things. He wants us to be totally reliant upon Him. He doesn’t want us to go around doing everything through our own efforts. He wants us to think of Him every moment, ask Him for favors and thank Him for blessings. Everything He does is to try and draw us to total union with Him—total joy. It is only us and our sin which keeps us from joy.
So does joy just come immediately after we ask of it from God? No—I certainly did not become instantly joyful after that moment! I think it has gotten easier though, as His grace helps us, but joy certainly does not come with no effort; it comes slowly, a little at a time. The things I did for God did begin to create more joy after I asked for His help. One of the biggest things I learned about joy this year is that it is small. It’s quiet, constant, often found in doing insignificant things: saying a prayer, not getting angry, doing kind works that no one but Him will ever know about, all with the thought of it being for His pleasure.
It’s doing God’s will that gives us joy, I realized. It’s what is going to matter in eternity gives us joy—whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did to Me. Paired with a constant plea to Him to let us live lives that point toward His love and glory—that is where we find joy.
And when it becomes hard to be joyful amidst the trials of our lives, we still have the hope of heaven—that one day we will be in complete union with Him. Imagine the joy in that.
Though I have most definitely not perfected a joyful lifestyle, I cannot say that this ‘year of joy’ has been a failure. Rather, it’s been showing me, reminding me, and proving to me that nothing aside from God and His will can ever bring pure joy. And perhaps that realization has drawn me closer to Him who gives joy.
Thank you for this Audrey! I’m curious to know, did anyone else have a word for this year? If so, what was it? What have you learnt about joy this year? (Don’t forget to shout out to Audrey in the comments 😊)