This past week I had the opportunity to share part of my testimony with a couple of young friends. I was indirectly asked, “How did you come to know the Lord?” and “How have you grown in your walk with Him?”.
I explained that although I have been a Christian as long as I can remember, God used His word and His ways to chase me down with His love in a deeper way in my mid-twenties. At that time I was wrestling with a lot of things that kept me disgruntled and discontent: my husband was an orthopedic resident pushing hours that are now no longer legal in the medical world; I had two toddlers, but also experienced two miscarriages; we had no money; and personally, I was dealing with a shattered dream of the recent past, and another rock-my-world present trial. Quite frankly, I was depressed, and the “woe is me” mentality ruled my life.
But somewhere during that time God sent a faithful friend along my path; after my friend had walked life with me for a while and quietly listened to my woes, she then tenderly spoke timely words that penetrated my wounded heart. She simply said, “Chris, do you know that you can choose joy?”. My initial reaction was, “Are you kidding me? Do you not see all this calamity going on in and around me! I deserve to be unhappy!” (skewed thinking!). But in my soul, I knew that she spoke truth. I am thankful to say that these words were the beginning of a life changing perspective for me; now over two decades later, no matter the circumstance, I remind myself, “Chris, you can choose joy“.
Over the years of putting this not-so-easy decision into practice, I’ve learned how to get-to-joy faster.
The first thing is not to complain or grumble. If I’m in the midst of a trial, it’s not a surprise to God; it is actually in this selected place that He has called me so that I can depend on Him in a deeper way. He will show up. But I must choose not to quench His spirit with my disgruntled or disbelieving heart. Having this attitude kills joy. God tells me to do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2:14).
The second thing is to be thankful. Replace the “Woe is me!” with “Wow is the Lord!”. Sometimes I just say thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You, over and over and over again, just so I won’t focus on my seemingly negative situation. Thank Him for whatever comes to mind concerning who He is (merciful, compassionate, powerful, good, wise…) and you will be busy all day long with thankfulness growing in your heart. Having this attitude births joy. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness by night (Psalm 92:1).
I am forever grateful for my friend of the past that challenged me to choose joy. And I am praying that my young friends will likewise, choose joy today–not sadness, nor even happiness, but the joy that is found only in Christ. It’s a decision that requires determination and perseverance through His abiding spirit. Jesus is joy. Choose Him.
Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10