(Post for Delight Ministries from Summer 2017)
You hear the phrase “choose joy” thrown around a lot, especially in Christian circles. I’m guilty of using it too…. but what I realized is that no one ever really tells you what that looks like, or how to actually choose joy, because it’s a lot easier said than done.
I’m currently recovering from a surgery where my femur had to be broken to realign my leg properly. Ultimately, I know it will be a good thing and hopefully alleviate some chronic pain I was having, but right now it means re-learning to walk and going through the worst of it before it’ll get easier.
When I found out I needed the surgery my first thoughts were along the lines of “Are you kidding me God? How am I supposed to be joyful about this? Am I seriously supposed to be thankful for this trial and this pain? Are you sure there isn’t a different plan??”
I realized that the only way for me to be able to get through this trial and see the good, was to separate God from the brokenness. I am clinging tightly to the truth that even when my life isn’t good, God still is- that no pain is without purpose because God is working all things for good (Romans 8:28) even when we can’t see it.
When someone tells us to “choose joy” in the midst of tragedy we think of an impossible standard of fake-happiness. However, I think choosing joy is choosing to still see the goodness of God in the middle of the storm. Joy isn’t a fleeting happiness, but rather, it is the deep-rooted anchor that keeps our heart from being pulled into the bitterness of life, because thankfulness is what keeps us afloat.
Brokenness, bitterness, anger, and frustration are strongholds that give Satan easy access to our heart. When we let those things in, they take root and start to cloud everything. However, they quickly unravel in the face of the truth of God’s unwavering goodness. When we boldly give thanks in the face of pain, the enemy doesn’t know what to do… he’s powerless because you’re taking the very thing that was meant to destroy you and instead letting it build, strengthen, establish, and refine you.
So, while I’m not thankful for what I’m going through, I am thankful to be alive to be able to feel pain and recover. I’m thankful for the friends and family I have as support systems. I’m thankful for the gift of time I’ve been given.
And most of all, I’m thankful that God you are still good. I’m thankful that you are using this trial for my good, for a purpose that I can’t see, but nevertheless, that you promise is working for my good. I’m thankful that there is always joy to be chosen, thankfulness to be spoken, and your goodness that cannot be broken.
I’m learning that there isn’t an easy way to “choose joy,” but I think it looks a lot like choosing thankfulness. It isn’t fake-happiness, it’s bolder and more daring. It’s staring right into the face of hardship and saying “my God is still good” and anchoring your heart in that truth.