Choosing Joy

About two years ago, I began to experience the American epidemic of busyness. I was a junior in college—balancing five classes, a part-time job, student leadership, and a forty-minute commute from the Upper East Side to my college’s campus in Midtown Manhattan. Some days, I would leave my apartment at 7:30 a.m. and wouldn’t return until 11:00 p.m. While I enjoyed everything that I was doing, I was often left feeling that my day was little more than checking tasks off the long lists I made on loose leaf paper.

While I was adjusting to this new way of living, I had a conversation with my older sister that completely transformed the way I approach my day. Jessica told me that she was learning to “choose joy.” This simple truth has become a mantra for me over the past several years. Whether I’m having an off day, feeling blasé, or am overwhelmed by the tasks at hand, I remind myself that being joyful is a choice.

We generally think of the fruits of the Spirit in terms of development. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, they are developed within us. Although it’s true that the Holy Spirit develops these disciplines in us, we forget that we are to be active participants in the developing. We can choose to respond to situations with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

By being intentional about practicing the fruits of the Spirit and choosing joy, we can transform our workplaces, despite how humble or mundane our positions. We can be counter-cultural, refusing to buy into the philosophy of “working for the weekend” and recognizing that both work and the posture of our heart toward it matter.

So, how can we choose joy as a posture toward work? Here are a few places to start.

Frame your day with prayer and Scripture. I used to wake up and get ready without any  flexible time in my morning schedule. Over the past few months, I’ve been getting up twenty to thirty minutes earlier, drinking a cup of coffee in bed, and spending time with God. And it’s made a huge difference in how I approach my day.

Make your office or cubicle a place of hope. I have a friend who has a small card in one of her desk drawers that says, “This is a place of hope.” What a lovely reminder that our offices are not simply the space in which we answer e-mails and do projects. (Proverbs 10:28: “The hope of the righteous brings joy. ”)

Interrupt your day with prayer and Scripture. One of the men in my community group has set up his e-mail to send him one random prayer request during his lunch hour every day. Another friend reads the daily lectionary during lunch. Create space in your day to pause and spend time with God.

Plan peace. Whether this means being kind to a co-worker who has slighted you or giving a polite response to a rude caller, plan peace in your workplace. (Proverbs 10:20: “Those who plan peace have joy. ”)

Rest well. Over the past year or so, I’ve started being intentional about resting on Sundays. It will change how you work.

May we live in the remembrance that “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” and in the joy that comes from working this way.