Looking Through the Lens of Joy

Joy in January - cardinal sitting on bare tree branch in winter

I’m one of those people who prays that God will reveal a word for me to meditate on for the next year. One year, not too long ago, on December 31, I sat and prayed for God to reveal to me which word I should focus on for the new year. What lens should I view the next year through?

The word God gave me was joy!

I was elated. What a fantastic word! What a terrific lens through which to see life.

As I moved into January, it was easy to look at the world through the lens of joy. My life was wonderful. It was a new year with no mistakes in it—a fresh, clean start.

The year was 2020. And come March when my world, like all of ours, was turned upside down, I lost my footing. Again, in my prayer time, I heard “joy.” God still wanted me to look at the world, my life, and my circumstances through this lens.

I looked up every time the word joy is used in Scripture. It is used in often surprising places, like:

  • “Your pain will turn into joy.” (John 16:20)
  • “No one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22)
  • “During a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed.” (2 Corinthians 8:2)
  • “Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy.” (James 1:2)

Just because the circumstances changed, the lens through which we view the circumstances shouldn’t. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is a result of knowing God.

That year of 2020 was good practice for instilling this lens of joy within me. When things got tough, I refused to let go of joy.

Sometimes I had to say aloud to myself, “Where can I find joy right in this moment?” In many ways that was asking, “Where is God right now, in this moment?”

I discovered how much joy is related to gratitude. When I learned to see through that lens, problems didn’t seem as big. I discovered the problems I thought I had, were not problems at all. My view had become clouded by anxiety.

With anxiety replaced by joy, we discover we can handle much more than we ever thought we could.

And then the words that I read when I was searching out joy in Scripture, “The joy of the LORD is your strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10) make perfect sense.

* * *

My word this year? Fearless.

With the joy of the Lord within me, I have nothing to fear.

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Shemaiah Gonzalez
Shemaiah Gonzalez is a freelance writer who holds a B.A. in English Literature and a M.A. in Intercultural Ministry. She thrives on moments where storytelling, art, and faith collide. Published on Busted Halo and America Magazine among others, she is obsessed with being well-rounded as she jumps from Victorian lit to Kendrick Lamar, from the homeless shelter to the cocktail party. A Los Angeles native, she now lives in Seattle with her husband and their two sons.


  1. I felt drawn to the Job story and ignatus prayer.I’m a Vietnam vet,feeling desolated.I presently suffering from PTSD and depression. My Wife,past away 6 years ago,I feel this emptiness and lost.

  2. I have prayed to God for many things, but I have never prayed for a word. Shemaiah, you have opened up a whole new can of worms for me. I am going to try this, Thanks.


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