By Cally Logan, Crosswalk.com
In seasons where dark clouds seem to loom one of the last thoughts we would have would to be to choose joy.
Often when things are difficult, our focus is on the problems, the anxieties of what could happen, and the fear that things will never change. Each day we have the choice to feed our fears, or to feed our joy.
Philippians 4:8 encourages us, “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.” This verse means that even in the most discouraging of times we can make the choice to have joy despite our surroundings.
This is not for us to do alone, nor were we ever made to face this life alone. As Paul reminds us in our weakness He is made strong, so through Christ we can choose joy this day.
Choosing joy does not mean faking a smile or pretending, for true joy can exist even in our struggles. When we partner with God and shift our focuses to trust and believe what He says, joy will become the outcome.
Authentic joy is birthed of abiding in God.
Abiding in God can look different from person to person, and even day to day. Asking the Holy Spirit to guide us each day, or as the Lord’s Prayer calls to ask for our daily bread gives our souls the nourishment we need to not merely exist for the day, but to live the day to its fullest potential.
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1. Focus on the Good
In every day, there is good to be found, even if that good is simply the fact you woke up today, or you have something to eat.
Joy can come from highlighting the good in our lives. We are exceedingly blessed to live in such an age where much of what we daily take for granted is freely given unto us. For many of us the freedom to worship the Lord how we wish in our country, having a full meal to eat, or clean drinking water is a luxury many do not have in other parts of the world.
Focusing on the good things, even if they have become something so common we often forget them, help us choose to look to optimism in life. The Psalmist proclaimed in Psalm 27:13, “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” and whether that is goodness you are believing for, or goodness you already hold in your arms, we can find great joy.
2. Remembering Past Victories
Often in the Bible God would call on His people to recall past victories. This was not to merely reminisce about glory days of old, but to call upon reminders that the same God Who made a way before, will make a way again.
Defeat and fear dominated his thoughts, yet God provided a reminder that he was not alone. David asks a priest if there were any swords in reserve he could borrow, and in verse 9 the priest replies, “The priest replied, 'The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want, you may take it. For there is no other but this one.'”
God reminded David of a past victory through this.
With God, David was able to defeat Goliath while he was just a boy.Carrying the sword of the first enemy he had slain reminded David that God helped him before, and He would help him again with this new battle.
In the same way, we can seek to recall times where God saw us through difficult times, or when He made a way when it looked impossible. He has never left our side, and we can find joy in the God Who stays.
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3. The Lord is my Strength
Nehemiah 8:10 reminds us that, “This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
Each day is a day the Lord has given and made, and therefore we have access to Him and His strength that day. When we choose to tap into His joy, it is there that we find true strength.
Paul reminds us that in our weakness He is strong. This is not an arm-wrestling match between us and God, rather it is a truth that despite our weakness, despite our shortcomings, and despite our weariness, we can rely on His strength. Relying on His strength comes from delighting ourselves in Him in connection.
We serve a strong and powerful God, yet your problems matter to Him. Find strength today in tapping into His joy over you.
It is said that all of creation is made to worship the Lord, even the trees clap their hands as the winds of the Lord breathe upon them. We too are made to worship Him, and in our worship to Him we can find great joy.
Worship can come from song, whether it be from our own songs we write to Him, or worshipping along with other believers in praise music to Him. These songs burst forth before Him in celebrating Him, but in the midst of it we find joy within.
Psalm 100 shares, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; come into His presence with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; a we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name.”
Music often has a way to lighten our hearts, even when they feel drenched in sorrow and when we let down our walls and guards and free ourselves into the music we are making the choice to choose joy despite the sorrow. Open the gates of your heart in joyful praise to God for Who He is, and Who He will always be.
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5. Focus on God
In life, we have the choice to focus on the problem, or focus in the solution.
In most every case that boils down to we can focus on the issues at hand, or we can focus on God, who is the solution no matter the problem.
All that is, was, or will be is in His hands, for He is Sovereign, so no matter what the problem may be, He is then the Solution. Choosing to focus on Him rather than focus on the doubts, fears, or unknowns will help us find strength and joy in that day.
Perhaps you are worried about money today, or a relationship is struggling, or someone you love is sick. When we place our focus not on the dilemma, but we choose to believe that God is working all things together for His good and our benefit (Romans 8:28) it is there that our hearts can truly rest. If the story is not good, the story is not over yet.
6. Joy in Creation
When God created the Earth for the first man and woman, He chose to place them in a Garden, one of paradise. This was for good reason that He did not place them in a sky rise apartment or suburb neighborhood, He knew their souls would thrive in the Garden.
In the same way, we can choose joy by changing our environments if even for a day. A walk in nature often seems to bring down to earth how small we are, and how big His creation really is. In nature, we can be reminded that His eye is on the sparrow, and He indeed watches us.
Connecting with nature is connecting with the song of the earth that sings its praises to the Almighty, and great joy is to be chosen and experienced there.
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7. Finding Joy in Christ Alone
John Piper, an incredible servant of God articulated, “The reason your joy can now be as full as it is and moving toward perfect fullness when all our battle with sin is over is because in union with me, the branch in the vine, you no longer enjoy merely your joy. You now have my joy in you and you enjoy what I enjoy as your joy, as you abide in me.”
We can choose joy by finding our fullness in Christ, not our circumstances. This year has more than likely felt a daily battle for joy, but when we find our joy not in circumstances, but in the eternal promise of Christ our joy will not be shaken.
Our happiness may crash against the waves, or strength may tarry, but our joy will endure for it is rooted in Jesus. True joy comes from abiding in Christ.
Help us to choose joy today. Lord, in times of such overwhelming circumstances it can feel so daunting to get out of bed, not to mention choose joy. Yet Lord we know that You are with us. Just as You made a way for the Israel slaves in Egypt into the Promised Land, just as You broke the chains off Peter in prison, and just as You brought down the Walls of Jericho we know that the victory comes from You and You alone. Yet even in the waiting, even in the questioning, and even in the long and winding road we can find our joy in You, oh Lord. Help us this day to choose not just joy, but to choose to focus our attention, our love, our affections, our praises, and our days on You. We love You, Lord. You are good, and Your faithfulness endures forever.
In Jesus name,
The decision to choose joy at times can be a difficult choice. When life feels good, it is easy to say we have joy, that the joy of the Lord beams from us, but when the tides turn that choice can feel more challenging.
When we focus on God, and when we root ourselves within Him it is there that the source of our joy will fill us. Through and within Him we can make the choice for joy, a joy that does not deteriorate with the storms, but endures from season to season, from sunrise to sunset.
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