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Experiencing Joy by Jeannie Cunnion


by Jeannie Cunnion

When Courtney invited me to write about joy, the virtue so beautifully explored in the first chapter of her awesome book, I jumped at the opportunity because


  1. I love Courtney



  1. I’d just finished reading a book entitled Good News for Weary Women by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and in this awesome book I’d highlighted a stirring quote about none other than…….. JOY!


Elyse quotes Theologian C.F.W. Walther and writes, “The Gospel does not require anything good that man must furnish: not a good heart, not a good disposition, no improvement of his condition, no godliness, no love either of God or men…….. It plants love into his heart and makes him capable of all good works. It demands nothing, but it gives all. Should not this fact make us leap for JOY?”




Yes it should and yes it does. The Good News of the gospel produces such JOY.


But this kind of joy doesn’t always feel like an easy thing to teach to our children.


I was recently trying to explain the difference in being happy and being joyful to my son Cal. But my words fell short. He understood the basic premise but I knew he needed more.


Then God gave us an experience that was worth far more than my words.


We had the privilege of adopting a family-in-need for Christmas. And a few days before Christmas we delivered gift cards for this family to purchase food and clothing for their family. We were only with this family briefly but I fell in love with all of them – the parents, the grandparents, the three children and the one on the way. And I knew we had to do more.


So we collected clothing, a lot of clothing, for this family. And when I called the family to see if we could come back over with some more gifts, they happily accepted. When we arrived at their home, she opened the door to their tiny apartment with a huge smile on her face. This beautiful family had set out snacks and drinks for us to enjoy together, and invited us to stay and get to know each other. I was overwhelmed by their hospitality. So were my boys. Our children ate and watched a cartoon together. And we got to know this family’s story and how we can continue to help them in these cold months when it’s hard for the father to find work. (And oh there is so much more I want to do to help).


When it was time to leave, we hugged one another in the assurance that we’d be seeing more of each other.


As we walked to our car, nobody spoke a word but we all had huge smiles on our faces. It was so clear how this brief encounter touched my boys.”


But just before my son, Cal, opened his car door I whispered in his ear, “The feeling you have right now. That, my love, is JOY. When you opened presents on Christmas day, you were happy. But when you gave love away, you felt JOY.”


Cal smiled that smile that always slays me. And we headed home. Hearts full.


I’m not knocking happiness. Oh, happiness is good. So good. But it’s often an emotion that’s fleeting.


What produces JOY is first remembering the good news of God’s grace and then letting it flow through us to one another.



You know the acronym for JOY- Jesus, Others, You.


Growing up I understood this acronym to mean put Jesus fist, others second, and yourself last. And that’s great advice.


However what I’m learning is that JOY doesn’t just flow from putting Jesus first.


JOY comes from remembering Jesus first. Remembering what He has already done for us. And then …. living our lives in light of that truth.


That, as Walther said, is what will make us leap for JOY, plant love in our hearts, and make us capable of all good works.


And that is the good news we can be giving our kids!


 Jeannie is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child.  She has a Master’s degree in Social Work, and her background combines counseling, writing, and speaking about parenting and adoption for organizations such as Bethany Christian Services and the National Council for Adoption. Jeannie serves on the board of Raising Boys Ministries. She also serves as the Council Co-Chairman at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT, where she enjoys leading parenting groups and Bible studies when she isn’t cheering on her boys at one of their sporting events. Connect with Jeannie through her blog, www.jeanniecunnion.com.

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  1. well you can tell what kind of week i am having since it’s tuesday at 12:37 pm and i am just reading courtney’s post from yesterday! well i am so glad i didn’t skip it in my craziness because the less on from jeannie cunnion on joy just brought some serious tears to my eyes. i think my heart was being squeezed reading that awesome story and true testimony of the difference between happiness and joy! thank you for sharing that – it’s a keeper!

  2. I hadn’t heard that acronym for JOY. Thank you for sharing it!

    I have a question (for anyone) about how you teach joy in your homes without minimizing your children’s feelings. I grew up with the message, “Don’t complain. There are so many other people who have it worse.” While my parents may not have actually SAID those words, that is the message I received. For this reason, I realized as an adult (with counseling) that I have an unhealthy tendency to gloss over negative feelings or deal with them by comparing (ick! totally unhealthy) my situation to someone who “has it worse.” Fortunately, through God’s grace and loving friends, I am now able to acknowledge and manage negative feelings in a much healthier manner, BUT I am sensitive to how I manage my kids’ negative feelings. I want to acknowledge their sadness, for example, but not allow them to wallow in it. I want to shift their focus but without coming across as minimizing. How do you do this? Thank you!

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