Image by Kelli McClintock

Let Us Choose Joy!

One of my favorite Christian bands is Sidewalk Prophets. They are catchy, upbeat, and their songs make you instantly want to sing at the top of your lungs even if you can’t carry a tune to save your life.

One of their more famous songs is titled, “Smile.” The basis behind this song is that there is always a reason to choose joy. Joy is a funny emotion that human beings deal with on a daily basis because joy can instantly be taken away from us, or the opposite, we can have so much joy that we feel we might explode.   

The reality for most people though is that they are grasping at anything for a small snippet of joy. If you are alive, chances are you have experienced a loss of joy at some point in your life. Death of a spouse, child, family member, or friend, loss of job, house, or friendship, not getting the job you hoped for or into the college you desperately wanted to study at. All these things and many more have caused people to lose their joy and lose sight of life’s bigger picture.

If anything, the year 2020 forced us to take inventory of our lives and find joy in the small things. According to the Mental Health of America website, the number of people reporting anxiety and depression Nationwide since the start of the pandemic hit an all-time high in September, hitting young people the hardest.

“As the pandemic relentlessly persists, we are seeing the highest levels of anxiety and depression reported since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA. “This is a troubling trend being fueled by loneliness and isolation. We are also seeing alarming numbers of children reporting thoughts of suicide and self-harm. We already knew that not enough was being done to support people living with mental illness, but the State of Mental Health in America report confirms the trend that mental health in the U.S. continues to get worse. Many states are ill-prepared to handle this crisis and policymakers at every level of government need to act immediately.” (Gionfridoo)

In general, anxiety screens were up by 634% from January and depression screens were up 873%. Between April and September 70% of people reported that loneliness or isolation was the top contributing factor to mental health issues. In the overall ranking, our Great Lake State of Michigan ranked number 15 with overall issues, number 6 in adult issues, number 20 in youth issues, and number 15 to access care. (That is pretty high when you think about it.)

In order to counter these challenges, we need empowerment, and we have to stand up for our policymakers that are willing to continue making decisions that will help our nation fight mental health and find greater resources all around. One of my favorite quotes is, “it is okay to not be okay.”

            For myself personally, I would be classified as a “workaholic.” I am a young adult female with no spouse or children of my own, so I have thrown my life into my ministry and have never looked back. When the world shut down in March, 2020, it took a half a day before I started freaking myself out because I did not know how to function. When work is the only thing a person has to live for, and that is taken away, they lose their mind. I had people tell me “get over it, at least you don’t have kids or a spouse who needs you every second of every day.” I hated those comments because I work with youth and their families. I missed them, I missed my ministry, I missed my family, I missed my friends, and I desperately missed my coworkers who I worked camp with. So I had to find things before going back to work to keep my mind clear and things that would bring joy into my life or I know for a fact I would have been a part of those statistics from above.

            The pandemic taught me, and a lot of others that we don’t need a lot to survive, and there truly is joy in the everyday little things that God puts into our path. I found joy in going over to my brother and sister-in-law’s house to teach my nieces, helping my mom fix things around her home so she could put it up for sale, help with home improvements at another friend’s house, endless walks around my community, outside meet-ups with my workout friends, Hallmark Movie marathons, and the realization that I wish I could live my everyday life in my pajamas. All these activities are things that I wouldn’t have been able to do if the pandemic never hit.

            I saw countless posts of people decluttering their home, re-painting, re-decorating and organizing, finding different trails around their home to walk down, new recipes to make, and the list is endless. During the pandemic, families took the time out to eat meals together, look up at the stars, follow the moon, read together, have endless movie and popcorn dates, virtual parties for graduations, drive-by birthday parties, and one of my favorites, date night in with their significant other.

            So if there is anything that we can take away from this past year, is that we ALL need to be there for each other, take time to smell the roses, and there is ALWAYS a reason to choose Joy!

God Bless You!

Xo Jes

I’d love to hear from you on what you did to find joy in your life since the start of the pandemic. Xo

Site I used for the statistics

Link to Smile by Sidewalk Prophets (Check it out! You won’t be disappointed)