"The joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:12
This command was given by Nehemiah to God's people over 2000 years ago. He had just led them in rebuilding the city wall of Jerusalem after their exile from the land. Ezra, the priest, had been reading the law to them, their Holy Scriptures, and they had been weeping. Nehemiah told them NOT to weep, and to instead celebrate that important moment in their story with a feast, sharing food with the poor, and being joyful because "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:12. It seems much like the contemporary phrase: Choose joy. You can read and listen to the full story in Nehemiah 8.
When I started looking at joy in the Bible, I found a lot more about joy than I'd first expected! One of the things which came across most clearly was that joy is something we choose to be and do.
Researcher, Brene Brown, says that joyful people cultivate thankful habits. She says:
"In twelve years of research, I have never interviewed a single person who talks about the capacity to really experience and soften into joy who does not actively practice gratitude".
You can see a short clip of her speaking with more details here.
You might also enjoy reading what five families answered when I asked them: How do you cultivate joy in your family?
The JOY edition of Faith at home explores joy, and in doing so, explores ways we can cultivate habits of thankfulness in our lives, including:
- A thanks chart (you get one on a postcard in Faith at home, but you can also download and print more copies here)
- 31 ways to be thankful - a chart with 31 gratitude prompts (again, it comes on a postcard in the mag, but you can download and print copies from here)
- We Choose JOY colouring poster - this A3 poster is in the middle of Faith at home, but if you'd like more copies, you can get them here
- Fridge magnet prayer
- Cake! Here's a recipe for a yummy cherry gateaux cake
If none of these thanks activities work for your family, you can find more thanks prayer activities here.
There are three activities exploring joy in the Bible:
- Joyful People Top Trumps - a game to explore some joyful people in the Bible and consider the links between joy and thankfulness and singing. You'll find full instructions on how to play Top Trumps here. You can also download and print more copies of the Joyful People Top Trumps which come with Faith at home here
- Word jumping - a fun way to learn Nehemiah 8:12 using stickers or chalk
- Chat and create - an activity to be creative with loose parts and explore what thankful habits you could cultivate. You'll find an article which talks about using loose parts here. You can also download Explore Joy in the Bible, a family or inter-generational small group resource, with open-ended questions and a challenge for 10 Bible verses about joy
Don't forget to try out praying together with:
- Sweets - more details here and here's a way to do it with fruit instead of sweets
- Balloons - like musical statues, only you bop balloons while the music plays, then catch them and thank God for the thing written on them
- Dancing - click here to find the GodVenture JOY playlist on Youtube