7 Ways to a Joyous Day

7 Ways to a Joyous Day

Pastor and author Max Lucado shares seven tips for finding daily happiness.

An artist's rendering of a smiling woman gathering stars from the sky

Ever have one of those bad days? You know, not kind of bad, but bad. You mess up at work. You have a terrible fight with your spouse. Your doctor calls you in for some tests that sound pretty scary—a day seemingly beyond all redemption.

When you have a day like that (and let's face it, we all do sometimes), you have several choices: Retreat into paralyzing fear, act out inappropriately or just go into complete denial.

But there's actually another choice: You can rejoice.

Rejoice? Why?  you may ask.

Because it's the only real way out. "This is the day the Lord has made," the psalmist tells us. "We will rejoice and be glad in it." This day? This messy, painful, frustrating day deserves a chance? Yes.

Every day, whether it includes a lost wallet, a dented bumper or the funeral of a loved one, deserves our full presence. They all come from God's drawing room.

Still not convinced? Try these seven strategies the next time you find yourself trapped in a day that holds more than you think you can bear. You'll be surprised at how freeing they are.

1. Fret not.
Anxiety will ruin your day. And it can be a real confidence-killer. I know. I get plenty of opportunities to fret: Was I too long-winded in my talk? Is my latest book any good? Do I have any business telling people how to live? The drumbeat of worry can be deafening.

I like the approach of a friend who once told me, "Well, Max, I always assume everyone likes me."

What a crazy idea, I thought. But I decided to give it a try—not just once, but to make it a regular thought habit. I started by giving myself and my audience the benefit of the doubt: We're all here because we're comfortable with one another.

That habit has changed how I view the world. It's not such a menacing place anymore. You can't add one more day to your life or more life to your day by fretting. Worry doesn't take away tomorrow's troubles, it only rids today of its strength.

2. Forgive freely.
I forgive easily, or so I like to think. But some years ago, a Christian leader publicly criticized me without giving me a chance to defend myself. This leader was offended by something I'd said on my radio show. I thought he had misinterpreted my words. He wrote an article about me, inferring untrue things. I was angry and hurt. Really hurt.

I moped for a few weeks, until I realized I was letting this man's accusations rob me of joy. So I wrote him a letter, telling him how I felt. He never wrote back. Maybe he never got my letter. I don't know. But what I realized was that by writing that letter, I forgave him.

Forgiveness is not about saying that what a person did is okay or that they're right. It's about making a decision, a choice to let the hurt and anger go. It frees you up to move on.

Forgive someone and you'll discover that that person has virtually no power to hurt you anymore. Then you'll be able to focus on what you really care about: the joy of life.

3. Fear not.
Heart trouble runs in my family. Mom, Dad, and my older brother have all had heart problems. I was so scared about having a heart attack, I became an exercise fanatic. I'm taking care of my health, I told myself, gritting my teeth. I even trained for the grueling half-Ironman triathlon. That should fix things.

Then about a year ago my cardiologist told me that I would probably still need to have heart surgery. All those miles of jogging and skipping desserts and stressing about my health, and my heart was no better off than it was before!

I'm not saying that exercise is bad. In fact, it's very good for you. I still run. My mistake was to think that I could run from my fears. Fear is a joy-killer. It can make me stressed out, short-tempered, unhappy.

What's the opposite of fear? Trust. I do better when I trust in God—and go for a short jog. He's in control of my life.

Place your fear in God's hands and you'll find that you have greater peace each day.

4. Live passionately.
I was a senior in high school when I made one of the most important discoveries of my life—I loved to write. My English teacher assigned us to write a short story. The whole class groaned, but inwardly I thought, Yes! I wrote that first story through the night. It wasn't very good. But it was a great effort.

Now I always looked for opportunities to write. Writing is something I do from the soul.

Discover your passions by looking back over your life for those sweet-spot moments where you've had "Yes!" experiences. String those together, and you'll begin to see new possibilities for your life.

5. Get over it!
Sometimes I'll have a bad day just by waking up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed. I don't know why I'm grouchy, but I stay that way for the rest of the day.

If you look long and hard enough, you'll find something to bellyache about. So quit looking!

If you have health problems like I do, you probably feel justified in complaining. Being in pain is no fun. But try this instead of griping: Take a break from your problems. Face each day determined to dwell on the positives. Think about what you have to look forward to. Write a list and put it where you can see it. Try lending an ear to someone in need.

Be especially kind to people with whom you have only one encounter: a waiter, a taxi driver, a store clerk. You may have only one chance to be kind. When you start living for others, it's pretty hard not to get over whatever's bothering you.

6. Collect your blessings.
Recognize all that you have, and finding blessings to collect will become easy. The key to a joyous day? Make gratitude your default emotion. Say, "I can find things to be grateful for in this day." Let your thoughts be positive. Expect good things to happen. Seek out people who can encourage you. Over time, you'll find that God's list of blessings is longer than your list of burdens.

I once ran a race next to a 66-year-old grandma. I was about to give up, but she urged me on. "Just hang in there, you're doing really well. Look how far you've come." I ran next to her and started congratulating myself for all the miles I'd run, not the ones that were still ahead. It worked and I finished the race strong.

7. Color your world.
One day I was at the beach, enjoying the balmy day I had so looked forward to. The sand was soft and cool. Tufts of clouds drifted across a deep blue sky. I leaned back in my beach chair and closed my eyes. That's when a seagull decided to use my chest as target practice. Yuck! I poured water on my shirt, trying desperately to get the stain out. And just like that, I'd lost the color of the day. Almost.

Maybe you were caught in bad traffic or your flight was cancelled or you haven't gotten over that nagging cold. How can you see the world in vibrant color on a day like that? Many of us can't. There I was on the beach…about to allow one errant seagull ruin my day.

Then I practiced all these steps I've been writing (passionately) about: forgiving the bird (after all, it was only doing what came naturally), not fretting or fearing, counting my blessings (what a beautiful beach) and mostly, getting over it! No, it wasn't too late for my day to be a joyous one.

The world is full of vibrant color. Don't let it lose an ounce of its luster. Assume this day is going to be good, and it will. God made it so.

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About Max Lucado

Max Lucado is a pastor and a prolific author of books for children and adults, including Facing Your Giants (2006) and Every Day Deserves a Chance (2007). For more information, visit Maxlucado.com.

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