Many, many years ago, I made a new habit in my life that continues even into the spaces of this very day. Every morning as my eyes open- I intentionally begin to praise God for another day of life. I want the first words I speak to be those of worship. I want my heart to recognize the Lord, my God as I begin a new day. I want my mind to immediately be renewed in it's thinking, and stand firm no matter what lies ahead.
Over the past few months as our world has become increasingly unstable, I have watched fears arise in my children, in women I know and love, and in our society as a whole. I have been asked "How can we choose joy, what does that even mean?"
My heart has been challenged, and strengthened, because I know that Christ is the only sure and steady anchor, that He alone is our hope, that He is our refuge and that HE is a very present help in times of trouble. I can hear an old hymn playing ever so softly in the depths of my heart in these time;
"When darkness veils his lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, his covenant, his blood Supports me in the 'whelming flood When all around my soul gives way He then is all my hope and stay
On Christ the solid rock I stand All other ground is sinking sand All other ground is sinking sand."
To choose joy is to choose Jesus! When it seems like you can't see Him, trust that He is there. When life seems shattering, know that nothing is happening outside of His perfect plan and will. In my own life I have watched joy be sucked dry because I have grasped for control, I have taken my eyes off Christ, and placed them on the circumstances at hand. Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy and fear are not friends, bunk mates, or relatives, they are enemies to one another.
When I say choose Joy, I am ultimately saying choose Christ. The fear (reverence) of God is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs 9:1).
If joy is easily taken, peace flutters away like a butterfly being chased after by a child with a net, then it's time to ask, was it ever joy at all? What was I placing my hope and trust in?
We can choose joy when we embrace the truth of God's sovereignty, remembering nothing that happens in our world, in our communities, in our churches, in our lives, anywhere- nothing happens without God ordaining it. He has a plan, though we don't understand or even see it most of the time, He truly is working everything together for good, and His glory.
To choose joy is to release your expectations of what you thought "it" should be like, and choose to willingly trust, the story God is writing. See- we all want to be the author of our own story, we think we have control, when really we have anxiety. God is the author, He is the Creator, the Giver and the Taker (Job 1:21), we have a choice, will we bless His name?
As I sit here, I hear the sound of my husband tying (he is prepping for his sermon this weekend), I hear the Bible study videos one of our daughters is going through, I hear the geese invading as they come out of the lake water and waddle up the slope of our backyard, I hear the sounds of another day, filled with decisions, and opportunities. I realize I have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside me, and I am called to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). I am not to gratify the desires of the flesh, but the desires of the Spirit, and just like I mentioned above, joy and fear cannot live with one another. My flesh loves to fear, because it thinks it has control. What a sham, I can't even add one hair to my head, or an hour to my life (Matthew 6:27).
To gratify the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, is to choose Jesus, trust His plan, rest in His unchanging grace, renew your mind with truth and be filled with the fruit that will abundantly grow (Galatians 5:22-23).
Is it an easy task to choose Joy? Not always, because the desire of the flesh is strong, but the fruit is weak, but there is hope in this space, (praise Jesus) in our weakness Christ' power is manifested (2 Corinthians 12:9). If you are trying to choose joy and you just can't seem to muster up the strength, it's because you can't! Pursue hard after Jesus- He is the solid rock. I love what Charles Spurgeon said; "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages."
I live by the ocean, one thing I know to be true, is this- calm waters don't last for long.
How can we choose joy in these times we are facing? The same way we always have- by choosing Jesus, reading His word faithfully, praying, and encouraging one another that His ways are best, His promises are true and He will never leave us or forsake us. Unshakable joy in hard times, comes when we let go of our precieved strength, stop trying to control, realize we are weak, and His power is enough!
As I begin this morning, I begin just like I do every other day. I will praise the name of Jesus. I will open my hands, releasing my tight grip, I will bow before His throne, crying out- in faith that I trust His ways, because they are always better than my own.
Will you choose joy today? Will you allow the wave to toss you against the Rock, and then climb up and stand firm on the solid ground that is yours in Christ?