Recently, my daughter posted a quote from Ann Voskamp on facebook. It read, “Busy is a choice. Stress is a choice. Joy is a choice. Choose well.” My daughter’s response was, “I need to think on this some more before I decide how I feel about it...” I get what she is saying. Do we really choose crazy, out-of-control lives? Can there actually be joy within demanding, consuming circumstances? Real joy? Heck, some days, I’d settle for a little pretend joy.
I have learned, however, that there is great, comforting truth to what A. Voskamp wrote. The key is believing that it really is a CHOICE. Somehow, we expect God to just give us peace; give us joy. We pray for it. We beg for it. Why does it allude us? I believe it is because we do not see our own role in the choosing part.
Here is a bad example (I honestly couldn’t think of a good one): I am a traditionally built woman (as in the Renaissance tradition---you’ve seen the statues at the museum, right?). I would love to be svelte. Okay I’d settle for a size 14. So, I pray to God. I ask him to help me be less “traditional.” He always seems so silent, especially when I stealthily throw in that Hershey’s with Almonds bar in with my grocery order on the check-out belt. “Oh, Look. My favorite candy bar. Now how did that get in there.” What I am saying is that we have a real part in this whole process. He provides us with the path to joy; we have to jump on the path! Intentionally.
As I was thinking about this, I picked up the July newsletter from In Touch Ministries. I turned right to a page whose banner headline read, “How Do We Chase Joy?” by Andrew Wilson. The article focused on just what I was trying to congeal in my own thoughts. He suggests, “One, make joy in God your priority, and, two, make it a discipline.” He went on to provide excellent, detailed suggestions for how/what to choose as we chase joy:
Let’s just consider One: Make joy in God a priority. In his article, Wilson discussed George Muller’s* view on this. Here is Wilson’s paraphrase: “He [Muller] knew that if he didn’t have joy, then ministry, prayer, study, and evangelism were empty, desperate attempts to find satisfaction somewhere other than in the Lord.” And where is THAT joy? In Him! I suggested to my daughter to begin her day reflecting on Him (even before getting our of bed). Make Him her/our first priority. Here is a great scripture with which to begin each day (throughout the day works, too):
“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).
Now think about this: everyone of these attributes describe Jesus! Love Him; thank Him; praise Him; give the day to Him. That’s our first “choice” in finding Joy. You can do this.
Next, Wilson offers concrete suggestions for making joy a discipline. That’s Part Two. (Sorry. You’ll have to wait a bit).
*George Muller (1805-1898): Christian evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England. Muller cared for 10,024 orphans in his life.
(part two will post next Wednesday)