Choose Joy

ID 856809 © Ian Bracegirdle | Dreamstime.com

“Be joyful always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 NIV

Joy. My intersections with this word tend to occur around December when Christmas carols move joy to the forefront. The rest of the year, my melancholy personality fights to find it. However, a recent writing project brought some joyful discoveries:

Joy is commanded. “Be joyful always” is a command, and therefore, something I must choose. And if joy is a choice, it is rooted in something besides circumstance or emotion. Hope in God provides joy’s foundation. What a relief, because if my joy depended on my feelings? This girl would be in trouble. My choices have the power to change my feelings. For me, that’s great news.

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:2-4

God’s sovereignty prevails. God is greater than sorrow, sin, or suffering. He delights in bringing good from bad. I just finished Almost Everything by Anne Lamott. She writes of the “but God” moments. Moments when the hundred-degree Texas summer makes you want to quarantine, but the crepe myrtles still froth with heady blooms of pink, purple, and white. In August.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Gratitude leads to joy. God gives good gifts to His children. He is with you. He is for you. Thankfulness warms up our joy muscles. One gift of quarantine has been walking. Wow! It releases the muscle tension of computer work, refreshes my mind, and burns calories too! I’m hooked!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Which good and perfect gifts come from God? Every one. 

Find something to be glad about. In Eleanor H. Porter’s novel of the same name, Pollyanna always saw the bright side of things. Her father challenged her to “find something about everything to be glad about.” COVID has slowed my pace and increased time with my stuck-at-home, used-to-traveling-every-week husband. Both brought challenges and blessings. Scripture continually reminds us: rejoice and be glad.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Psalm 150:6

Joy grows. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It requires cultivation. Nurture. Food. Water. Have you neglected this part of your spiritual garden? I recently picked blueberries. With blueberries, you have to hunt under leaves and in between branches to find those dark juicy clusters. Likewise, our joy is growing too, but sometimes we have to move stuff out of the way to find it. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Sometimes, joy takes work. Be aware of the element of spiritual warfare. Our enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Often, our joy is the target. Remember your weapons of praise and worship. The foe has been defeated, but we must walk out the victory. 

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Choose joy. Cultivate it. Look for it. Fight for it. God not only wants you to have some, He commands it.
To help with your obedience, check out Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in “Joyful, Joyful” by the Pentatonix.

Activities:

1) Take a family poll. Who sees the glass half-empty and who sees the glass half-full? Half-empties, how can you refocus? Half-fulls, how can you help others see what you see? Choose one way to accomplish your mission this week.

2) Play the Pollyanna game. Have each person share a challenge they face this week. Think of something to be glad about regarding each particular challenge. Help each other brainstorm.

3) Plant something. As you nurture that plant, remind yourself to nurture joy.

4) Take turns choosing praise music this week.