Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Work For The Night Is Coming"1 (Lyrics)
I woke on the wrong side of the bed. I had a headache, and had been aroused by its pounding rather than by my alarm. As I reluctantly climbed out of bed, my dog, Scout, bounced around, happy to be awake and alive, and soon to be fed! Her energy wasn't contagious. I shuffled downstairs to let her out and prepare her breakfast, flicking on the radio as I passed. I love this song, I thought, and chanced a small smile on the way to the bathroom. When I opened the door to let the dog back in, a warm breeze followed, bringing with it the scent of the flowers in our garden. The bird nesting at the peak of our roof glided over, carrying a worm to the babies that I could hear peeping above me. I took a deep breath, thanking God for it all, then closed the door and danced to the song on the radio, suddenly—just like Scout—happy to be awake and alive.
All our lives, our fortunes and our moods slide along a spectrum between sorrow's tears and shouts of joy. If we never experienced sorrow, we wouldn't know joy when we felt it, and vice versa. For me, these verses speak honestly of the human condition:
Psalm 126:5-6 – May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (NRSV)
God created us as emotional beings, with all that that entails. But that doesn't mean that we have to wallow in sadness or anxiety or pain. Life itself will bring us plenty of those emotions, but there are things that we can do to encourage joy to return afterward and to remain in our hearts for as long as possible. We can help others to cultivate that joy, as well!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (NRSV)
It is the will of God that we be joyful, and Paul's list of ideas for sowing seeds for that harvest of joy is succinct. In that vein, here are some concrete examples of things that we can do today:
- Remember a time when God or a friend helped you and the feeling that that evoked. Rejoice over it again.
- Sing along with a song that makes you happy, perhaps a hymn or a praise song. What joyful times does it bring to mind?
- Pray, hard, for yourself and others. Meld with the Spirit for a time. The prayer need not be positive; if you are feeling sad or angry or doubtful, share that with God. God created emotions, and He will certainly understand them.
- Give of your time or talents. Do so to create joy for others, which is more important than creating it for yourself, but your own satisfaction may just be a side effect.
- Express gratitude to God or another person.
Now, go and garden, sowing those seeds of joy!
Prayer: Creator, help us to cultivate joy in our own lives and in the lives of others. We will rejoice, pray, and give thanks all our lives. Amen.