One of my goals in life is to be joyful every day. Notice I didn’t say my goal was to “feel” joyful, though I certainly want that too. Feeling joyful requires my emotion. Being joyful requires my decision.
Discipline is to train yourself in a certain way; making intentional decisions with consistency. It also defines the ability to keep working at something that is difficult. Thus the “discipline of joy” is to keep working, training, and being intentional – about joy.
The most mature, the most fulfilled, the happiest man there ever was, is Jesus. It was said of Him, “Your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Hebrews 1:9)
In Psalm 16, Jesus utters these words: “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced.” These are two attributes of the heart of Christ – a glad heart and a glad tongue. His source: seeing the Father, ever before Him.
Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice in the Lord always” or “Gladden yourself in the Lord.” Circumstances may be the result of other people’s decisions; how I respond is going to be MY decision. Couples who say that the joy has gone out of their marriage, are making what they’ve deemed unbearable, to sound like an external issue. In reality, it’s the joy you each contribute that makes the marriage joyful. This needs to be the prime target for restoration.
Let’s tackle the question of authenticity. “I can’t fake happy; my life, my marriage, my job, etc…is not going well. I won’t live in denial. I’ve got to be real.” By all means, express your heart in prayer, find a trusted source of counsel, alleviate the pressure, get wisdom. Taking ownership however, will necessitate a choice at some point in time, on what needs to be done with all these “feelings.”
Suppression is a healthy defense mechanism. Losing a loved one, the trauma of abuse, or a relationship on the edge, necessitates a time to put emotions on hold lest they overtax our circuits. But that is only a temporary survival measure. It’s similar to the scaffolding around a construction site. It can’t stay there permanently; if it does, it will be out of place. Then you’ll have another issue with authenticity; that is, in the name of being “real” you will have settled for “surface.” Life cannot be lived “on hold.”
Concurrent with being a Man of gladness, Jesus was also a Man of sorrows, one acquainted with grief. It was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross. Peter exhorts us: “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Every marriage will have its share of sorrows and joy. If we keep Christ at the center, the Man who is well acquainted with both, we will keep perspective and not lose heart.