For several weeks, I had been living in an upside-down world. Medical equipment filled my home, people rotated shifts to help provide care for my family and me, and food appeared from friends, acquaintances, and strangers who were all doing what they could to help with our most basic needs.
Mostly, I observed. I watched and waited. I watched as others ran my home. I watched as people came to take care of my children. I waited to be moved from wheelchair to bed. I waited to be served food. I waited to be escorted to the bathroom.
In that place of observation, I heard an invitation from God. A verse that was familiar to me was planted firmly in my heart and would not budge no matter how I tried to push it away. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Initially, I was not amused by the reminder, for I felt I had very little in which to rejoice.
Ah, but God is persistent, and the verse would not budge. He began to lay other verses on my heart like Psalm 30:5 which says, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” And Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!” I argued with a “whatever, God” kind of attitude. At that point, I didn’t wash myself or cut up my own food. These were not days for rejoicing.
Ah, but God is persistent. He continually invited me to lay down my anger and fear. He perpetually reminded me of His faithfulness in all circumstances. He relentlessly provided for me tender moments that held kindness of others who were ministering to me in His name. His love was all around me. And after a while, it penetrated my stubborn, resistant heart.
In that season, I began my journey of learning about joy. And while I still have much to discover, here is what I know for sure to be true. Joy is possible every day all the time. Joy is available without fail to us who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior. Joy is ours for the taking. But joy is not forced upon us. God offers us joy, but we must choose to accept it.
We have two options when we are up against a mountain of what I call un-joy. We can focus on our circumstances. They are real. They are painful. They are uncomfortable. Focusing on them is an incredibly easy thing to do, and there are always others around who will cheer us on in our circumstantial focus and help us justify that choice.
Or we can choose to hold tight to the unchangeable truth that we have salvation in Jesus. That whatever trouble and sorrow we may face in this world, it is not bigger than Jesus. It does not negate His love for us, His faithfulness to us, nor His work in and through us. Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus, says Paul in the book of Romans, and we can choose to walk in the joy of that truth. We can choose to look for Him in our everyday experiences. We can hear Him in a song, see Him on the face of a loved one, feel Him in memories, experience Him in nature. Or we can choose to look away, ignore it, and press on in our negative emotions.
When I realized my choice during my time of physical limitations, I began to do a little exercise. Every day, I would think of one good thing that happened. I would speak it out loud. Today I brushed my own teeth. Today they brought my baby to me. Today I sat outside. And when my heart was sad, and I began to feel sorry for myself, I would remember the verses about joy, and I would connect those verses to the thing I had in my day where God revealed Himself to be present. Eventually, those “one things” turned my heart back around, and instead of focusing only on myself, I could experience the One who is the source of joy.