Thursday, 9 August 2018

Choosing Joy

I'm tired. I never fully understood the whole "emotional rollercoaster" thing until this year. Cause oh boy. It's funny how you can feel on top of the world one day and then down in the deepest, darkest depths of despair the next. I thought I had cried the hardest I could possibly cry one day - and then cried even harder the next.

I overthink things. I question my motives, my decisions, and am always second guessing myself. Take the past two days for example. I feel like I went through a bunch of odds and ends jobs that were almost back-to-back to each other the entire day. And I'm hoping I was doing that because I truly wanted to help people. But what if I was doing it just to keep myself busy and not let myself sink into that dark depression again? Or the next morning, I woke up fairly early and got right into my day - but doing a lot more than I usually do. Did my devotions, then ate breakfast (since I don't normally eat breakfast that's actually kind of a weirdly big deal for me), took Maple for a walk on the road (I like never do that), read a book by the Girl Defined gals, started to go on the computer to scroll through social media, but suddenly decided to read through a whole container of books with my baby sister instead (also hardly ever do that), emptied the dishwasher (one of my brothers' chores), and then drove to change bunkies at a neighbours'. When I got home, I read an entire book then fell asleep - and woke up crying because I finally remembered what I had dreamt about the night before. You know those dreams where it just hurts and then when you finally wake up you're so relieved that it was just a dream and not real? Yeah, one of those. And when I finally sat down and let my mind think - yep. Now it's bugging me that the reason I actually did all those things that morning was not that I wanted to be involved in my family life and be a help - but rather because I was unconsciously trying to forget that dream.

I almost feel like that's what I've been doing all summer. Working, trying to keep busy, desperately searching and finding things to do to keep my mind on anything and everything but the thing that will drag me down. Hoping that maybe if I stay busy enough I'll forget, that the pain will go away, that it won't hurt anymore, that the ache will fade. And sometimes I feel like it's working - but then one thought and I come crashing back down again.

But, praise the Lord, I'm learning.

Enter that thing called Choosing Joy. Possibly one of the hardest yet best choices any person could make. Because when I decide to follow joy, my mind is directed onto something else. It doesn't make me forget the worries and problems of life - but it helps me find a way to deal with them.

Happiness is not the same thing as joy. Why? Because joy does not depend on the circumstance. If you're reading this, you probably know how difficult it can be to choose joy in the middle of a hard time. How, at some points, it would be so much easier to just give in to the feelings and stop fighting those tiring mind battles and just sink. But I'm telling you right now, as someone who's gone through it and someone who still is going through stuff - it IS possible to choose joy right smack in the middle of the problem. No matter how hard the circumstance.

I'm not going to pretend that choosing joy - and continuing to choose joy - is easy. It's not. I mean, when everything's going all fine and dandy then yeah, of course, it's easy to be joyful. But when times are hard? When everything seems to be falling apart? When you feel like you're sinking into a black hole? Proclaiming joy - pure, 100% joy - is not easy.

Even if you're able to somehow drill the whole choosing joy thing into you, it can still be a struggle. One day, by God's grace, I was reminded of James 1:2-3 where it says to "count it all joy...when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness". I was determined to count it all joy no matter what happened - and then the very next day went through one of the hardest things I've had to deal with in my life. So there I was, basically crying my heart out and at the same time whispering "I choose joy" over and over through my tears.

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I'm still thanking God for giving me the strength to have been able to do what I did that day. Despite the seemingly endless hurt and ache, I was eventually able to refocus myself and actually be joyful. I still remember looking at my sock drawer of all things and realizing that the ache had turned into joy - a joy that made me want to twirl and dance around. It was a joy that was anchored in someone - Someone who I knew I could always count on, who would never end, who was always faithful and who was the best source of joy in the whole entire universe.

I still struggle to choose joy in circumstances. It's definitely not something that automatically happens once you conquer it the first time. Maybe it makes it easier, but it's something you have to choose over and over and over again. But I've realized - it's so much more worthwhile to choose joy. It might be harder to follow, but it has more lasting results than the whole "keep busy and you'll maybe forget" lie I was believing for a while. And, I don't know about you, but for me personally, I find it harder to stay grumpy. I can get grumpy easily enough, but staying that way for an extended period of time is a bit harder. Like, if I'm grumpy but something funny happens, I have to laugh even though I'm "supposed" to be grumpy. Or the times when I'm feeling down but really want to have some fun but can't very well do so being grumpy, so then decide to maybe save the grumps for later :P I'll admit, there have been occasions where that was so not the case and I've sunk into darker, deeper depressions than I'd like to have experienced. But I couldn't ever truly stay that way. That God-given joy and peace and love isn't just some fairy tale! It's very, very real. So yeah. I still prefer choosing joy. And trust me, I'm not just saying that because I want to spew out inspiring quotes and it's really easy for me to say because I'm not actually going through anything right now etc. Yeahhhh no. I'm saying this as someone who is going through something Right. This. Very. Moment. So there!

I don't want to feel like I'm acting all the time. It's too tiring that way. I want to be myself - and I want myself to be joyful. I want to overflow with joy, spread joy, give joy, share joy. I want to be someone who chooses joy no matter what - and I hope I AM that kind of person. Not for any reason on earth. But because of God who wants me to be joyful too. And I'm praying that the joy I have is not any kind of world-given joy but is the truest, most authentic joy that exists - the kind that can only be obtained through our Heavenly Father.

Aaaand of course we, as Christians, need to make sure our truths are grounded in THE truth. are some truths on joy.

TRUTH: We are called to be joyful 

"Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!" - Psalm 32:11

"Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him" - Psalm 98:1

"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" - Psalm 37:4

"Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright" - Psalm 33:1

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!" - Psalm 100:1

"Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!" - Psalm 47:1

"Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!" - Psalm 95:2

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!" - Psalm 98:4

(soooo many more passages like these...but I'll leave some for you to look up yourself ;))

TRUTH: The hard times won't last forever (Praise the Lord!!)

"Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" - Psalm 30:5

"Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!" - Psalm 126:5

TRUTH: A joyful life can be a testimony and witness to God

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" - Galatians 5:22

TRUTH: Joy is actually good for you! Like chocolate - but even better 😄

"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" - Proverbs 17:22

"I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live" - Ecclesiastes 3:12

"And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun" - Ecclesiastes 8:15

TRUTH: The truest and best joy comes only from God

"The joy of the Lord is your strength" - Nehemiah 8:10

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" - Psalm 16:11

"For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence" - Psalm 21:6

"For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart"- Ecclesiastes 5:20

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit" - Psalm 51:12

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" - Romans 15:13

"Now thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes evident the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish" - 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

TRUTH: Joy is a choice

"I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation" - Habakkuk 3:18

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" - James 1:2

TRUTH: You can be joyful in the fact that God has got e. v. e. r. y. t. h. i. n. g in control and He's ALWAYS there for you!

"In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him" - Ecclesiastes 7:14

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" - Deuteronomy 31:6

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" - Isaiah 41:10

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight" - Proverbs 3:5-6

"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" - Psalm 37:17-18

'" am with you always, even to the end of the world" - Matthew 28:20

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" - 1 Peter 5:10

"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness'" - 2 Corinthians 12:9a

"...for with God all things are possible" - Mark 10:27b

"For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" - Romans 8:28

"There is no temptation overtaking you but that which is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to bear, but will with the testing also make a way to escape, that you may be able to endure it" - 1 Corinthians 10:13

There's still gonna be hard times. I'm still gonna fail. I'm still gonna cry. I'll probably be down in the dumps sometime sooner or later. But it's what happens later that really counts. Am I gonna stay a grumpy bear (and scare off anyone who comes within a ten-foot radius of me)? Or am I gonna sort through those feelings, refocus myself, and choose joy?

Trust me, I know it can be hard to choose joy, especially with everything going on around us. I need to constantly remind myself to redirect my thinking. It strays like nobody's business.

One way I've found that helps me choose joy is to... focus on joy. *blows mind* A shock to hear I'm sure ;) But it's true! The past little while, I tried finding ways to focus on joy. I wrote down quotes/Bible verses that I wanted to remember, saved inspirational images from my FB feed, switched my desktop screen to yet another quote, went through my Bible several times over to underline verses, etc. I just wanted to have these good (and godly) reminders everywhere so that no matter what, I'd have these things right in front of my face telling me to refocus myself and to shut up the dark thoughts dragging me down. 

Of course, it's not just the quotes that are doing the work. It's ultimately a matter of the heart. Whether we're actually willing to let the light be shone into our darkness. But if we give ourselves over to God, if we turn our focus on Christ and let Him lead us - then well, we're good to go!

I thought I'd share some of the quotes I've saved over the past couple of months. Prepare yourself though - there's a lot 😄

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And more quotes for you, just in case there wasn't enough already 😉

"It is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy"

"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day" - Henri J. M. Nouwen

"The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives" - Russel M. Nelson

"I find joy in every day, not because life is always good, but because God is"

"Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy" - Joseph Campbell

"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose" - C. S. Lewis

"Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God" - Sam Storms

Choosing joy can be hard. But just like anything else in the Christian walk, it is always worth it later on. And we're never alone in the fight! I maaay have believed the lie that I was alone for a little while...but then I was reminded that we're never alone in our struggles. We all learn the same lessons in life - just maybe at different times and circumstances. And that's why we have all these awesome brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us and encourage us along in our walk for the Lord. 

It's going to be a struggle. Probably a daily battle too by the looks of it. But God's on my side - and since He is, no one, not even Satan, can stand against us. 

I'm choosing joy, y'all!