On Choosing Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may mature and not lack anything.” James 1:2-4

Many years ago, a desperate and afraid teenager girl was handed a card on the streets of Camden by an elderly woman who stuck out like a sore thumb. The double-sided laminate card resembled one of those bookmarks that sold for 25 cents at the school book fair in elementary school. You know the ones that sat right by the register and were adorned with some sort of animal. For an extra 10 cents you could get one of the 3D lenticular effect ones that move depending on the angle it was held. The thought brought her back for a moment to a time when things that were complicated were interwoven with routine and stability. She looked down at the card in her hand. One side held a bible verse that was quickly dismissed and the other side was neon pink with the words “Choose Joy” written in cursive. “Ha!” she said bitterly as she tossed the card into the street. In that moment she couldn’t think of one thing to be joyful about. Her baby boy was dead, she was homeless, broke, and in a bad state. Anger and resentment started to build up inside her towards the woman who handed her that card. Easy for you to say, she thought.

 She has seen the term “Choose Joy” before. In fact, at one point it was sprawled on her binder written in whiteout. It is one of those mottos thrown in the same category as sayings like, “Follow your heart” and “Live, Laugh, Love.”

These words look great on mugs but do they hold any real meaning?

There is a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness often depends on external factors, in other words happiness happens to us. Even though we may seek it and pursue it, feelings of happiness is not a choice it’s an emotion. God made us with big emotions but his intent was for us to use them as gauges not guides. When we make decisions based on how we feel we can miss so much of what God has planned for us.

The bible warns of this in Jeremiah 17:9 which reads: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” All of our lives many of us were fed the lie to “follow our hearts” when that very mentality separates us even farther away from our Father.

 If we walked into every situation in life applying the “how does it feel” method instead of God’s truth we are setting ourselves up for failure and to live a life full of inconsistencies. The truth is many days we aren’t going to feel like doing things. We may not feel like working out, spending time with a friend, going to church, serving, or spending time with God. If we live life based on how we feel each day nothing beneficial would be accomplished.   

Our emotions are meant to turn us to God and lucky for us, through Jesus, we were given a better way to lead our lives, through the Holy spirit. Thank the Lord, many years later the scared girl (me) in the story above was given a chance to find out what it meant to “Choose Joy.” When we spend more time with our Father and learn to listen and live spirit led lives wonderful things begin to happen. I’m not saying that it will always be easy or that I will always want to be obedient. Sometimes I drag my feet kicking and screaming like a toddler. But Father knows best and, in the end, it’s always worth it.

Joy is a choice and an attitude of the heart and spirit. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may mature and not lack anything. “

Is it possible to feel joy in difficult times? I believe it is all about shifting your perspective. Gratitude is at the heart of Joy and if you look hard enough there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Waking up every morning in prayer followed by reflection in a gratitude journal is one way to remain Joyful. Philippians 4:13 is one of my favorite verses. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The bible refers to Joy as contentment in Christ above all else. It is faith that God will give us strength in hard times and if we give up our worries and burdens to Him that is one less weight, we need to carry for ourselves.

Everlasting Father, I thank You for the breath of life that I am fortunate to have every morning. Remind us to continually rejoice in our salvation and to bring everything to you in prayer. My lips sing praise and I give thanks for all you have done for me, Father. Weeping may last overnight but joy comes in the morning. I praise you for strength to face another day. May I continue to praise your name forever. Amen.

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