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.

A Mother’s Worry

I don’t know about you but from the moment those double pink lines appeared on the pregnancy test held in my shaky hands I began to worry. For years I attributed these fears to the death of my firstborn son and a subsequent miscarriage but the more I talked to other moms I realized that I was not alone and that fear was a very common denominator amongst us. The reality of all the worries attached to motherhood is even something seasoned mothers share with the rest of us. I distinctly remember a day where I was walking down the cereal aisle at the grocery store with my growing belly when a well-meaning elderly woman said to me, “Enjoy your peace now because once your baby is here you will never stop worrying. Even when they are an adult.” I smiled and thought little do you know I’m already consumed with worry.  We have all heard this saying, and may even have shared the adage ourselves as if it’s a sign of solidarity amongst one another. Something we can all relate and agree too.

The list of a Mother’s worries is never ending. We worry about miscarrying or eating the right foods during pregnancy.  When we are finally holding our babe in our arms, we are worried about how much they are drinking, if their poops are normal, and if they are urinating enough. We worry about germs, vaccines and pesticides. Once they leave our arms and go to school we worry if they will be safe, will they make friends, will they do well in school, and will they make good choices. I have yet to enter the season of parenting a teenager but I can only imagine it comes with a whole new list of fears.

The word worry comes from an old English term meaning to “strangle or choke” and that is exactly what it does to us. Fear literally chokes us out from experiencing the peace and joy of the present moment.

While it’s something many of us moms admit to struggling with it still feels like a very secluded place to be in. Mama, you are not alone and there is a freedom to be found from this struggle and that is through Jesus. 

““Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”” Matthew 6:25-27 


Can any one of you add a single hour to your life by worrying? The answer is no. In fact it does the opposite. Recently at church one of our pastors shared a quote with us that hit home. “Worry is our way of trying to control the future with our minds.” In the end no amount of worrying is going to change the future.  If we allow it to it will fill every nook and cranny of your mind until you can no longer focus on the present.

That’s what the enemy wants. He wants us so preoccupied with future what-ifs that we are distracted from what matters right now. Our spouses, our kids, our jobs, our devotion. He wants us so choked out of fear that it makes actual struggles worse because not only do you carry today’s load but you are carrying tomorrow’s with a thousand other nightmares.

Paul tells us in Philippians to not be afraid but to present our worries and fears to God. He is our counselor. He carries our burdens and gives us rest. We can use anxiety and fear to grow in faith, and God wants us to use this time to trust in Him.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”-Corrie Ten Boom

Is it easy handing over our worries and living in complete trust? Of course not, it’s something we need to pray for and ask for daily. Just know He cares and He listens. 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8


We can choose where we park our minds and I want to park it in a place of Love and truth not fear and unknown. What are some worries you need to hand over to God? Take the time to present your needs to Him now.

Father thank you for adopting me as your child even though I am not worthy. So many times I forget you are with me. Help me put your Word first before my fears. Help me to live in the present and not worry about tomorrow. I know when concerns arise you will provide and guide me through the unknown. Help me to trust you more and worry less. Amen.

*Anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that often requires professional help. If you are struggling with excessive worry and physical symptoms please seek help and know that your Father will walk with you along that journey.*