Choosing Joy

So this week I sat down and actually wrote down what my ideal would look like six months from now. I’m trying to make my goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive)–although some goals are hard to do that with. “Get Healthy” is pretty nebulous ūüėČ

Life is hard, isn’t it? Trying to figure out what I would like changed and what’s realistic to change–it really brings into focus some of the things I’m tired of in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the things I get to do. I never thought I could ever have a life I love this much, especially with my background, but that doesn’t mean¬†there aren’t hard things.

As I’ve told y’all, I’m working my way back through Beth Moore’s James study. It’s really good, in case you haven’t done it yet–I highly recommend doing it! I think most of us in the church are familiar with James 1:2-4:¬†Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,¬†whenever you face trials of many kinds,¬†because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.¬†Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)

The thing that I really love about Beth’s study on this passage¬†is that she talks about the choice we have. Joy isn’t something you feel–it’s something you choose. I’ve talked before about how joy is being present in our moments because we believe there’s something good there. The exercise she has you do is to write down three different things you could do with the trials you’re facing and compare where you’d be in five years if you choose something other than joy (anger, bitterness, apathy, despair, etc., etc.) and then to write down where you’d be in five years if you choose joy.

The crazy thing is that even though it is a lot harder to choose joy in the short-term, you get a lot further in the long run. I had an appointment with my doctor last week¬†that¬†was simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. She told me that she’s seen people work on fixing their nutritional deficiencies and then suddenly heal after years of work. It’s something that I’m working on fixing in my own life, and sometimes, I’m just tired of being sick and tired. I’m worn out with trying to be faithful in things that don’t have immediate results.

When I was doing this lesson, that was the first thing I thought of. So, for instance, if I choose despair with my health problems, I would probably give up. I’d stop doing the things that will help long-term because they’re not helping short-term. My stress levels would go up. I’d probably have fallout in my relationship with God. I’d be less able to take care of my kids and to be a true ally to my husband.

Or I could choose bitterness–after all, a lot of these health problems didn’t start with something I chose. And God allowed them. So, I could get bitter, which would make me more toxic, which would make me less healthy (physically and emotionally). And I’d be back to being a poor mother/wife. Plus, I’d most likely be miserable with my life.

But if I choose joy, right off the bat my toxicity levels will be better, even if nothing else changes. I’ll be able to continue being faithful with my health therapies. I have more emotional margin to handle stress, which in turn creates greater margin in other areas of my life. And long-term, I’ll be growing closer to God–because frankly, I don’t see any other way to choose joy without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Anyway, you get the point. If you have time, consider writing out your own scenarios and how they’d play out. Choosing joy may not be the easy thing, but I want the benefits of having my trials produce perseverance and maturity.


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