How Exactly Do We Choose Joy?
In the middle of 3000 people and four days of meetings, we finally managed to get close enough to greet one another. Taking both my hands in hers, she looked deep into my eyes as she asked warmly, “How are you?” I smiled through misty eyes and replied, “I am well. God is helping me every day.” “I know it is true, I can see it on your face!” she said with a deep hug.
I love that. I love knowing that His joy is on my face. It is something this faith-buddy, and I have in common, abiding joy and enduring faith in spite of the storms.
Depending on the version you are reading, the word “joy” appears approximately two hundred times in the Bible! One of the most well-known phrases on joy, “count it all joy,” comes from the scripture in James 1:2-3:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Many will tell you that counting it all joy is easier said than done. It is true that, while the passage may be well-recognized, it is not nearly as easily comprehended! To comprehend means more than merely understanding, it means to “lay hold of.”
I find that it often helps me “lay hold” when I read the scripture in several translations, broadening the grasp of it in my heart. Here is that same scripture from James 1:2-3 in The Message, which is a paraphrase:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
The first powerful step to count it all joy is to choose to see the gifts. The hardships themselves are not gifts. The demand that hardships place on my faith, that is a gift; The demand on my faith is a divine opportunity for strength to rise, God’s strength in me! My role is to allow the joy of the Lord, which is my strength, to do its work in me!
You may not control all the events that happen to you,
but you can decide not to be reduced by them.¹
― Maya Angelou
We cannot always choose what happens in life, but we can choose our perspective on it and our responses to it. So when grief, sadness, depression, strife, or stress press in on you, if injustice rails against you, “when sorrows like sea billows roll,” recognize at that moment, you are face to face with the grand opportunity to choose joy!
I encourage you (and myself!) to choose to see the good, the gifts. Choose to agree with God, the Author of our story and the finisher of our faith! That realization ~ that it is God who authors my story ~ that profound revelation supplies me with the courage to open my mouth and declare, “I am well. Yes, all is well!”
Today’s post is Part 1 of several on the practical application of God’s exhortation to count it all joy. I hope you will share it with others who need joy and encouragement and be sure you stay tuned for more joyful steps along the path and in His Plan! For as she thinketh in her heart, so is she.
For further inspiration today, you might be blessed by these different renditions of the song,
- Angelou, Maya. (2008) Letter To My Daughter. New York. Random House