Cowritten by: Yvonne Rheinschmidt Ph D, LPC & Scott Rheinschmidt MA LPC
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Henri Nouwen
We were discussing the ‘Joy’ of Holy Week and Easter Sunday and then we started wondering what ‘Joy’ really is. Joy is defined in the dictionary as “…a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” For many of us the feelings of great pleasure and happiness during Easter comes as a result of many activities such as church, family gatherings, coloring Easter eggs, toys and candy, even cascarones being smacked on our heads. Without a doubt we find these activities, which have been handed down to us for generations, to be something we really look forward to every year and bring us joy.
This Easter is very much different than in the past years. Many of our traditions will be interrupted due to the current world wide pandemic. So the question is how do we find and maintain ‘Joy’ which is an internal experience during this new external situation? In psychology there is a concept known as Locus of Control.
Locus of control is an individual’s belief system regarding the causes of his or her experiences and the factors to which that person attributes success or failure. This concept is usually divided into two categories: internal and external. If a person has an internal locus of control, that person attributes success to his or her own efforts and abilities. A person with an external locus of control, who attributes his or her success to luck or fate, will be less likely to make the efforts needed to learn and grow. People with an external locus of control are also more likely to experience anxiety since they believe that they are not in control of their lives. Psychology research has found that people with a more internal locus of control seem to be better off.
As Christians we have been given the greatest gift of an ‘internal’ locus of control: Jesus. In counseling we often discuss our personal filtering system using the concept of Locus of Control. When external events are taking place it’s our filter that determines how we feel internally. As an example, if I believe that Easter is ruined because of the current situation I will not feel joy, but if I believe that I can still celebrate Easter, just in a different way, I will then experience the feelings of joy. Our filter decides how we feel so it’s important to develop a sound filter which is where Jesus comes in.
Jesus teaches us that he is in control of the external world so we don’t have to worry and that we need to use his belief system as our filter to give us a sense of internal control. Jesus states, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”(John 15:9-11) If we make this passage as part of our ‘filter’ then what takes in the external world will not take easily take our joy away.
You can use your God given internal locus of control to create the best Easter ever this year. Pope Francis states, “So, in these holy days, in our homes, let us stand before the Crucified One, the fullest measure of God’s love for us, and before the God who serves us to the point of giving his life, and let us ask for the grace to live in order to serve. May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others.” (This quote is from Pope Francis’ Homily for Palm Sunday 4/5/2020 on romereports.com.) This is the kind of sound filter we all need that will help us live a ‘joyous’ life.