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It’s Easter Sunday.

For people of faith, Easter is a day of rejoicing.
Ecstasy.
Delight.
Hope.

Joy…

I’ve done a lot of pondering about joy this month. You know, the whole month-long theme of #embraceJOY.
About those people who always seem to wear a smile, even when they face devastating difficulty.
What brings joy when life isn’t easy?
Is joy the same as happiness?
The same as laughter?
Is it the same as cheer?

Where does joy originate?

Is it the derivative of achievement?
The result of satisfaction?
An outflow of possessions?

Is it related to ease?
To life going smoothly?

joy+shame+sarah+mcdugal+easter+sunday+psalm 119If that were the case, though, how could anyone exhibit joy under duress?
When life falls apart.
When expectations go unmet.
When stress becomes unbearable…

What sparks genuine joy then?

Psalm 119 begins with a poem about this.
About the sources and causes and derivatives of joy.
About how we find joy, and what it takes to keep it.

Interestingly, the psalmist indicates that joy is closely tied to choices. Joy is the outflow of integrity, of searching for what is right, of following through with principles we know to be moral.

1 Joyful are people of integrity,
    who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws
    and search for him with all their hearts.

In this psalm, joy is also connected with the absence of identity crisis. Those who live in joyfulness don’t shake hands with evil. They don’t flirt with compromise. They don’t keep their options open for self-indulgent and destructive decisions. And they don’t waffle back and forth when it comes to conscience. In other words, they know their core values, and they live with one face.

They do not compromise with evil,
    and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us
    to keep your commandments carefully.

But here’s where it gets fascinating…
The psalmist presents joyful integrity as the antidote to shame.

Today’s world talks a lot about shame.

Whether it’s supposed to be good or bad for you (it’s bad).
Whether or not it’s interchangeable with guilt (it’s not — and guilt is actually good for you).
Whether you know deep down inside that you’re enough. 

Oh, that my actions would consistently
    reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed

    when I compare my life with your commands.

Hand in hand with ongoing conversations about shame, are discussions on self-esteem.
How do we learn to accept ourselves?
Where do we access an ideal source of healthy confidence and wholistic identity?

Society has been chasing these ideals for decades — seeking answers to the intrinsic human need to feel valued, cherished, treasured, enough. What we tend to forget though, is that no person or thing outside of ourselves can make us feel like enough. That’s something that must originate internally, must flow from the inside out. It’s not something you can manufacture by telling someone they’re great just because they exist. It’s bigger than merely a fleeting feeling of worth propped up by material possessions.

joy+shame+sarah+mcdugal+easter+sunday+psalm 119Knowing you are enough, is closely tied to knowing without a doubt that you are capable.
Capable of honesty.
Capable of follow-through.
Capable of obedience and consistency.
Capable of development and growth and improvement.

Knowing you can face hard things and survive them…
Knowing you are valued and loved…
Knowing you are enough…

These are the things that bring lasting joy.
These are the things which send shame packing.

Joy drives out shame.

As you leave this year’s Easter meditations behind, there is beauty to be found in pursuing a life of enough. 

A life where guilt has its place, where compromise is rejected, where masks are torn away, where joy bubbles up from integrity.

A life free from shame.

As I learn your righteous regulations,
    I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees.
    Please don’t give up on me!

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