As I arose early for prayer and meditation, I turned to the scheduled reading for that day. The words in James 1:3 leapt from the page: “Count it all joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, brothers and sisters, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
Now, I’m known for my joy…but really? Count this injury and pain as joy? I knew it was no accident that I was reading these hard-to-swallow words on this particular day. Thus I made the decision right then and there to choose joy. Does that mean I immediately felt all bubbly and happy about what I faced? Uh – no. However, to choose anything else would mean I would miss all the good that I am meant to glean from this experience.
Choosing joy is not a denial of a painful reality. It is choosing a perspective that positions you to receive God’s best. Choosing joy doesn’t mean you start laughing in the midst of adversity. It starts as an intentional decision to look for and wait expectantly for peace. The peace can turn into a deep, unexplainable joy that is not based on circumstances.
Compare this process of choosing the right attitude to when you forgive someone. I learned years ago that regardless of whether a person who offended me is sorry or even interested in reconciliation- if I choose unforgiveness, I lose. Big time. Bitterness grows from unforgiveness and is a poison in your life. You can choose forgiveness by an act of your will, but it is likely to take time for that to filter through to reach your emotions. You might still feel your gut clench when you see that person. It’s easy to get angry all over again if you allow the memory of a hurtful conversation to replay in your mind. That’s when you choose forgiveness – over and over and over again. Until one day, you actually feel peaceful about the situation.
That’s how it works with joy. When you choose joy, the light might start with a flicker of hope for restored happiness. You know how sunlight flickers when you are driving through the woods? Florida is so green – there are many roads where the play of light can be unsettling. Sometimes it gives me a headache. I want it to be only sunny, or only shady. The tendency for many is to choose to camp out in the dark woods of discouragement, disappointment, and regret. But if you’ll keep going, you will break through to see full sun at some point.
This week I was having a discussion with someone about my fresh insights on joy. She thought they were totally off base. Her response was, “So if you can count this as joy, does that mean you’re open to breaking BOTH legs so you can receive twice the joy?”
No. She doesn’t get it. I can’t tell you that I fully understand it myself. I know from experience, choosing joy is the only way to go. Her response simply spurs me to learn to convey this revelation more clearly. My life verse is Nehemiah 8:6, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This strength is not just for me – it’s fully accessible to anyone who wants it.
A week out of surgery, I’ll readily admit my joy is in the flickering stage. I don’t feel like dancing. In the dark hours of pain-filled nights, I’m not excited about the lessons I’m learning. But joy awaits. It is sparked daily by loving people, kind gestures. and faith. I know the sun is still shining and I will keep going until it warms me all the way to my bones. I’m just passing through as I count it all joy.
P.S. I will be seen moving around the platform on a fabulous invention – a knee scooter – come November. What an adventure.