Have you ever noticed at the end of a year that people are always really excited for the upcoming year? I hear a lot of things like “This year was terrible, but the new year is going to be better!” Then at the end of the next year, they say the same thing. “Oh, this year was not good, I’m so ready for a better new year.”
It’s interesting that people are always looking for a better future but are unhappy with the present or the past. So when a new year comes, it’s easy to be excited for something that hasn’t happened yet. But at the end of the year, when things didn’t change the way they hoped, the year is tarnished.
This year has been a particularly difficult one for a lot of people, and it’s completely understandable that most of us are ready for this year to end. But we also need to remember that even though the date changes from 2020 to 2021, our circumstances won’t change as easily.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of looking back on years like they were miserable and frustrating. I’m tired of the good things always being in some abstract future place that doesn’t exist.
I’m ready for joy.
I’m ready to look for joy everywhere. To find it in every day, even if the day overall wasn’t so great. I’m ready to look back on each year I live and see the joy that came from the year instead of the difficulties and disappointments.
It’s time to choose joy.
That doesn’t mean the disappointments, pain, frustration, and so on will go away. But remember promise from President Russell M. Nelson:
Saints can be happy under every circumstance. We can feel joy even while having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!President Russell M. Nelson, “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” October 2016
Joy is not conditional on circumstances; joy is conditional on our perspective and focus. Joy is not a feeling; it’s a choice.
So how do we choose that joy when we have years like 2020? How do we make joy a constant part of our lives?
Christ is the Best Source of Joy
I believe the only way to have constant, complete, and fulfilling joy is through Christ. In the same talk I quoted above, President Nelson also said,
My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives… we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him… Jesus Christ is joy!President Russell M. Nelson, “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” October 2016
When we remember the true source of joy – Jesus Christ – we are also reminded of the eternal plan of our Father in Heaven. Joy is a principle of eternity. It never has to end, and it comes by choosing and living eternal doctrines and laws.
Christ gives us joy because He gives us hope. He makes promises and keeps those promises. His love never ends and when we follow Him, His love is abundantly clear in our lives. He’s sacrificed everything for us and does all He can to help us in the ways we need help most.
Christ’s love and aid may not always take the form we hope it will. Sometimes what we need is to figure out something on our own, not be told what to do. Sometimes we need tough truths instead of simple comfort. But whatever He gives us, we can rest assured that He is giving us what we need.
Again, I want to say that committing to Christ and choosing joy does not mean that we won’t experience difficult or painful things. It also doesn’t mean that we can’t let ourselves feel sadness, frustration, or grief. To be human is to have those experiences, and it’s healthy to let yourself feel whatever you need to feel in the moment.
Choosing Christ and joy means to hold on to hope even in those moments. It means when we lose a loved one that we remember the promise of resurrection. It means that when we make mistakes or sin, we choose to return to Christ and find hope and change in His atonement. Joy can come with us in so many circumstances, and with Christ, we can have joy in every circumstance.
How to Choose Joy
Now I want to look at a few specific things we can do to choose Christ and joy in the coming year and in every year ahead of us. It’s easy to say that we need to choose Christ and joy, but sometimes it isn’t clear how to do so in day-to-day life. Of course, a lot of choosing Christ and joy is also obedience to the commandments of God and worshipping Him. But there are other things that can help us day-to-day as well. So here are a few of my ideas to help you figure out how to choose Christ and joy more each day:
- Study joy in the scriptures.
- Try gratitude meditations.
- Keep a journal of times you see God’s hand in your life.
- Pick a word at the beginning of the year that helps you focus on Christ. Place it where you can see it often.
- Do a self-assessment. Ask God what needs to change in your life and work to make it happen.
- Forgive yourself.
- Tailor your social media. Choose to follow people who are uplifting and who help you see Christ and joy in your life.
- Choose a place to volunteer.
- Find ways to show love and kindness to your family and neighbors.
- Study an attribute of Christ in the scriptures.
- Take care of yourself. Treat yourself as a child of God and your body as a temple.
- Commit or recommit to Christ. Decide how you can follow Him more completely.
Keep Looking Forward
If we all start choosing Christ and joy in our lives, next year will be a better year – not because of any particular events that happen, but because of our choices and our hope in Christ. And at this time next year, we’ll be able to say that 2021 was a year of joy, and we’re looking forward to more years of joy.
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