One day while I was out with my mom, we spotted a Ghiradelli(™) Chocolate store. After one good whiff of caramel and chocolatey goodness, we both agreed that we had to go inside the store. Immediately when entering the store, the salesperson handed us a sample of chocolate with the hope of us buying more. Biting into that piece of chocolate I wanted to savor every single flavor. That small piece of brought me what felt like joy, but for about 10 seconds. After I swallowed that piece of chocolate and it was over. The feeling of joy was gone. It only left me wanting more.
That is what most teens think of when we think of joy. Good feelings and having our desires met. But that kind of joy is temporary. To have lasting joy, we need contentment. Many of us insist that we need the newest iPhone, the most stylish shoes or the most sophisticated clothes. Our focus is on the now and like that small piece of chocolate, after a while, we only want more. That piece of chocolate brought me joy, but only for a little bit of time. Just like that new phone and new clothes only brings temporary joy. There is really only one way that we can have true, everlasting, joy and that is through Jesus Christ.
In the summer of 2016, I was able to go on a life changing missions trip to Happy Life Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya. While I was there, I fed babies, changed diapers, and taught a third-grade class. Each school day, we had free time to play with the kids. It was in that moment that I experienced what joy looks like. The children did not have the fancy gadgets that we have to amuse themselves. They only had found things like sticks and giant tires. And yet, the smiles on their faces and the joy in their hearts truly showed me what joy through contentment looks like.
One way we can truly find how to have joy is through contentment. The Greek word for contentment is autarkeia which means a perfect condition of life in which we don’t need help or support. Contentment can only come from our relationship with God because we can be content with what He gives us. The temporary satisfaction that comes from the world never truly helps us to be content. It’s just a Jesus-size hole never to be filled unless it is filled with Him. And the same thing goes with joy. Joy comes from our faith and relationship with God, as well as our obedience to Him. It is not dependent upon our circumstances.
Reflecting on my summer in Kenya, I wanted to offer you these tips for finding joy through contentment:
- Volunteering is a great way to get a new perspective on life. There is a wide array of places you can volunteer depending on where you like to serve. If you are an animal lover, you can volunteer at a kennel or help out on a farm. If you like kids you can volunteer at a summer camp. I spent three weeks last summer volunteering at a nature camp with 3 to 6-year-old children and it was a blast. Other places you can volunteer are nursing homes and soup kitchens, you can basically take whatever skill sets and gifts God has given you and share it with others. This is a great way to help out and really experience joy!
- The second way that we can also experience joy is through our everyday lives. As I get older and dive into high school, I see how my schedule tends to get busier and busier. I don’t always have time to “stop and smell the flowers.” Sometimes we need to step back from life and evaluate it. I know as a teenager it is hard not get caught up in what I want. But if I truly look and see how much I really have and how much I am loved, it brings me joy.
Finally, know we all need to be filled with pure joy in order to be truly content. When we have pure joy like the Bible says in James 1:2-3, we know that when we go through trials and tribulations it tests our faith. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” also reminds me that I need to be content with what God has given me and take joy in that because we know he provides.
So the next time we think about how much we really want something or as most of us say “need” something that we don’t really need, think about what we already have. When we have Jesus within us we can be content and have pure joy no matter what we are going through, what we have or do not have. Yes, it’s okay to want stuff, as a 14-year-old girl I know there are some things I want that I don’t need. But, we shouldn’t let what we want blind us from just how blessed we truly are. Can others sense the joy of Jesus inside of us? When we look in the mirror do we see us or Jesus? I once heard a quote that said: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.” If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
Sophia Andrews is a 14-year-old orphan care advocate and humanitarian. She is the founder of Ngoma Kenya (http://www.ngomakenya.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/NgomaKenya/) where she uses her gifts to support children in Nairobi, Kenya and the host of Sophie Smiles (https://www.youtube.com/sophiesmiles6 and http://www.SophieSmiles.com) where she talks about all things teen. Sophia is a Disney Lover | Coffee Drinker | Book Reader | Christ Follower Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/NgomaKenya/