Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
Good morning Prayer Team!
When a couple comes in for counseling because things are going well, one of the first questions I ask is, “when is the last time you went out on a date?” Usually, the answer is that they can’t remember. During the course of counseling, I will sometimes ask “what did you do for fun when you were dating?” Then I’ll ask why they stopped doing what was fun, back in the day.
It is interesting that couples will actually readily remember what they did that was fun. Because we tend to remember good things, we remember experiences that bring us joy.
Joy and fun are very important parts of a well-balanced life. We need joy to balance out the stress. We need fun to balance the work. This is critical to marriages, friendships and all relationships. If there isn’t an element of joy in a relationship, that relationship will not be successful. We all know people who we label “debbie-downers,” because they tend to see the negative in everything, they tend to bring people down. People like this usually don’t have a lot of friends, because people naturally gravitate towards people of joy, rather than people of sorrow. This inclination to joy is natural because God is a God of joy. He created the world as a positive gesture, not as a negative one. He created us to have joy, not sorrow.
Some people are more joyful than others. This may because of circumstance or it may be because of personality. Sorrowful circumstances happen to all of us. When these happen, we are supposed to work through sorrow, with patient friends who will help us, so that we can be restored in our joy. If our personality is one of negativity, then this becomes our challenge, to learn to be more joyful. It is important in relationships and to our overall mental health, that we take time on a regular basis to laugh, and to have fun. It is important to our overall outlook that we learn to see good in others and to find joy in our everyday lives.
Look at the Psalm verse above. The Psalmist writes that today is the day that the Lord has made, so we are to rejoice and be glad in it. It doesn’t say “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be sorrowful and miserable in it.” The angels in Bethlehem at the Nativity talked about the “good news of a great joy” which would come to all people. (Luke 2:10) And the Greek word for the Gospel is “Evangelion” which translates into the “Good News.”
While we may not associate the word “fun” with our relationship with the Lord, certainly we should associate the word “joy” with our spirituality. Psalm 32:11 reads “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” If your relationship with Christ isn’t joyful today, ask yourself why. If the answer is guilt over failings, going to confession can take care of that. If the answer is lack of understanding of the faith, then invest some time in prayer, scripture reading and joining a Bible study or taking a catechism class. If the answer is that you are frustrated with life, the answer may be prayer and counsel with a priest or counselor.
Our faith is supposed to bring us joy. Going to the Divine Liturgy on Sunday should bring us joy. Because standing in the presence of the Lord, and receiving Him in Holy Communion, even on the worst day, is supposed to bring us joy. For what more joy can there be than uniting with Christ in Holy Communion. Prayer is supposed to bring us joy and peace.
And a great way to find joy is in serving others. When you give to someone else, it brings you joy. When you volunteer to help at a soup kitchen, or as a tutor, or even open the door for someone or help an elderly person carry their groceries, this brings joy, not only to the ones you serve but to you who is serving. Joy is found in Christ. Joy is found in seeing Christ in others, in serving others.
Fun/Joy (from a spiritual perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I derive joy from being an Orthodox Christian? Do I find joy in prayer, in scripture reading, in serving others?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down some ways that you can bring more joy in to your Christian life. Make a commitment to do some volunteer work in the next month and take note of how volunteering makes you feel. If you aren’t getting joy from your Christian life, invest some more effort in prayer, scripture and worship. Because an honest and sincere effort in these things will bring more joy.
Fun/Joy (from a relationship perspective)—Do I like to have a good time? Am I a complainer? Do I see the good in people? Do I take time to relax?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Write down some ways that can have more joy in your life. Make sure that you have time “off”. Find a hobby or something you enjoy doing that doesn’t require much work or effort. I enjoy yardwork, but even though it is work, it doesn’t feel like work because I enjoy it. So find something to do that brings you joy. Make sure that you laugh every day. Do fun things at least once a week with your spouse or close friends.
Lord, thank You for all the blessings You have given to me. Help me to find balance in my life. Help me to manage stress and to find joy. Help me to see the good in other people. Help me to be a positive person. Bring people around me who will be positive and encouraging. Amen.
Be joyful today!
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