- - Sunday, March 10, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Culture challenge of the week: Weary hearts

“There’s no joy in my life.”

It’s a common complaint. I’ve heard it over and over, across the years, from friends, acquaintances, even strangers as they share the burdens of singlehood, marriage, work or parenting.

Maybe you know the feeling?

Life can be hard. Sometimes life’s major blows — a loved one’s death, serious illness, unemployment or addiction — send us reeling. But even when life is ‘normal,’ joy tends to evaporate under the daily grind of work, obligations and routine.

Even if we’re committed believers, strong in our faith, joy is often “missing in action.” We want it, but don’t know how to find it.

How to save your family: Discover joy

Take my advice: Read “40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life: Living the 4:8 Principle.” It’s a short little book, written by best-selling author and life-coach Tommy Newberry, and it just might change your life.

An earlier book by Mr. Newberry, “The 4:8 Principle” had greatly impacted both my daughter and me several years ago and still affects our lives in wonderful ways. I wasn’t certain that I really needed Mr. Newberry’s devotional on the subject. Boy, was I wrong.

My sweet husband, Andy, and I started using the devotional together and it really has helped us incorporate the truth of the 4:8 Principle into our daily living.

Oh, so what is the 4:8 Principle?

It’s the Bible verse Philippians 4:8.

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.” (New King James Version)

I also like this translation as read in “The Message”:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

Mr. Newberry’s challenge to us in his new easy-to-read devotional is to live these words. His book unpacks the gem in Scripture: As we direct our thoughts toward the pure, lovely and praiseworthy, we pull our feelings in the same direction. And when we take deliberate steps to see, give and receive joy, our lives become richer and more meaningful.

Mr. Newberry boils the definition of joy down to a simple concept: deliberately grateful thinking. He challenges readers to train their minds to be grateful, especially for all of the little things in life, because gratitude is the linchpin of joy. Too often, resentment monopolizes our thoughts and feelings smothering joy. Gratitude, on the other hand, “predisposes your heart to joy, and it is the cornerstone of an unstoppable attitude.” (Day 11, “Harboring Gratitude,” Page 62)

“40 Days” is best read as a 40-day devotional, covering one lesson per day. While short (each daily reading is a maximum of three pages), the book delivers on its promise and guides the reader with practical, easy-to-implement pointers for daily life. The daily reading, while sometimes sprinkled with cliches (“enjoy the gift of the present”), truly provides a thoughtful look at joy. At the end of each lesson, Mr. Newberry’s practical tools — the “Drill,” the “Extra Mile,” “Make It Stick” (the “thought of the day”) — prove valuable as they help us create good habits and eliminate bad ones. My hubby and I completed these sections separately and then compared our answers and ideas, and every day found that we were enriched by the exercises.

The “Drill” enlists the reader’s intellect in a variety of ways, such as writing down joy-producing or joy-decreasing activities and ways to maximize or avoid them. The “Extra Mile” challenges readers to integrate particular thoughts or activities throughout the day, encouraging the extra effort required to form a habit. “Make It Stick” is a virtual sticky note with a one-sentence inspirational saying for the day. Deceptively simple, these drills have real impact and are easy to practice.

Mr. Newberry’s book offers a new beginning — a jump-start toward a joy-filled life. It’s not a quick fix (for that, try chocolate!) or as effortless as popping a daily vitamin. He challenges us to prioritize joy, to persevere in developing joy-producing habits of mind, and to practice them faithfully.

The key is starting now. Begin with the “40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life,” put the 4:8 Principle into practice every day, and reap the blessings for years to come. As we enter the Easter season with joyful hearts that we have a risen savior, consider ordering a copy to tuck into the basket of all your loved ones. This practical and powerful devotional just might help them experience the joy of Easter every day of their lives.

• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosaveyourfamily.com.

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