Have you ever chased a butterfly and the closer you got to it the further away it moved? Did it feel as if it slipped through your fingers right at the moment you just knew you caught it? Has joy ever felt like this to you?
You felt like you had it in your hands only for something to knock it out of your grasp. Joy is not elusive. It’s not giddy either. Joy is a decision you make.
To choose joy is to show up and enjoy your life, not just exist in it. Have you ever met a person that was sunny-side-up? The glass was half full and not half empty. She exudes joy. It flows out of her genuinely.
She doesn’t just have “positivity” she learned to choose joy while she was in the midst of trials. Hard situations and even bleak seasons of life wanted to steal her joy but she held on to it.
Joy is like a garment she puts on so she can see her life from God’s perspective and point of view, not what her circumstances tell her.
She has battled depression just like you. She would have thrown the towel in but joy held her hand through the hard times. She knew the giver of joy and the hard seasons would change.
To choose joy isn’t some sunshine in a bottle christianize term. It’s knowing that the giver of joy is within you wherever you are.
He is abiding with you in the mountain top experience and through the weariness of a valley in your life. Circumstances you face will attempt to rob you of joy if you allow it.
It is possible to choose joy in the middle of painful situations in your life. Feelings are fleeting and happiness can come and go based on what we go through. If we get the job, get a raise, get the house then we are happy. But what happens when we don’t?
Do we spiral into a negative mindset? Does discouragement keep you preoccupied because life isn’t turning in the direction you wanted it to turn? Are you struggling in relationships and now it seems joy has been lost in your life?
Scientists have studied the effects of joy on our lives and can prove the benefits of what joy does for the physical body.
On a scientific level, we feel joy in our neurotransmitters, which are tiny chemical “messenger” cells that transmit signals between neurons (nerves) and other bodily cells.
Those neurotransmitters are responsible for processes and feelings in almost every aspect of the body, from blood flow to digestion.
Our state of mind is connected to the way we feel in our physical bodies. There is a physical manifestation within our body based on this research.
Now, let’s look at what God’s word says about joy, where we get it, and how to maintain and choose joy whatever emotional state we experience.
5 things the Bible says we will experience if we choose joy
Here are 5 things the Bible says we will experience if we choose joy:
1) We will find strength.
The book of Nehemiah tells us this. Nehemiah comforts his people as their governor. They had just come through a tough time and had been working hard to rebuild their homes and community from devastation. For us it might be rebuilding our homes and communities after tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes.
These people had been working tirelessly to rebuild and restore what had been destroyed. They were exhausted and sad. Nehemiah calls them together and Ezra is there bringing the word. They are all gathered together listening to the reading of God’s word. Here’s how The Message translation reads-
Go Home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength.Nehemiah 8:10
These people knew sadness. They felt ridiculed and taunted by the enemy. This is what the enemy does to us spiritually. He makes us feel like no progress is being made and if a small amount of progress is made it won’t be long before it’s destroyed. His “ job” is to keep you discouraged and only see the problems rather than God’s provision.
Nehemiah and Ezra want them to know what God says to them.
Their strength comes from God’s joy. It takes internal discipline to lean in to listen to what God says rather than hearing the shouts of your enemy.
Nehemiah directs them to be mindful of others. To be considerate of those who are around them and to share what they have.
He knows people will be most satisfied when they get busy preparing something for someone who has a need.
He instructs them to get out of feeling sorry for themselves and serve those around them, as they do this joy will multiply, and with every step more strength will be given to them.
2) We can experience peace when we choose joy by choosing our thoughts.
We can be selective about where we park mentally and what we meditate on. We can choose the company we hang around. Joy can be contagious but so can negativity.
How many times do you feel a spark of joy around a negative Nancy? I’m guessing not much. Being negative can become a bad habit like biting your nails. It’s so subconscious you do it without even realizing it, however, you see the effects of it. Unattractive nails.
Negative Nancy’s are like that. They spew discontent with every word they speak. Nothing or no one ever seems to be right for them. Critical about everyone and everything because they are dissatisfied in their own life.
They have a joy-less life, squashing everyone’s hope by being negative. Verbalizing what they are always thinking about which is negative things.
Let’s look at what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:8(NKJV)
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things.
Paul knew our thought life mattered. He instructed the church to think on and meditate on good things. When we do this we can experience peace and joy because we meditate on the good things in our life.
This doesn’t mean we are in denial about hard things or sad things but we don’t allow our thought life to be dominated by them. We can choose joy by choosing what we set our mind on.
What kind of thoughts do you think? Do you meditate on good things? I hope so because your heart will thank you.
3) Know his presence.
When God’s presence is near it brings joy. We can choose joy by being with him and spending time in worship. When we regularly spend time in prayer and commune with him through his word we will grow to trust him in a greater way.
Let’s look at these various scriptures to see from God’s view.
I love the way the psalmist says it, we find fullness of joy in God’s presence. It’s there and available for those who choose to enter in with him.
You will show me the path of life, and in your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)
For all the gods of the nations or idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and Majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place. Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.1 Chronicles 16:26-28
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace and believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
God’s word is powerful in their description of how strength and joy are available in his dwelling place and the God of our hope will fill us with all joy and peace.
This should make us all anticipate the wonderful things He has for us, in spite of what we might be going through.
Imagine, you wait for a precious friend to show up for a visit and when they arrive your expectations are satisfied and you are overflowing with joy.
Your heart gets filled up because you feel connected. The connection naturally sparks joy as you catch up and hear about each other’s life adventures.
The same thing happens to us when we spend time with God. When we make time with God a priority the byproduct is joy.
4) Intimacy through prayer.
We can choose joy by spending time in prayer. Prayer shouldn’t feel like a spiritual duty. This doesn’t mean we don’t need to discipline ourselves to stay in prayer but it’s a relationship. It is a dialogue not a monologue. The Lord has something to say to you.
These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. They’re burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.Isaiah 56:7 (NIV)
You are that house of prayer. Invest time to pour your heart out to God. To shut the door on distractions and bring your needs and the needs of others before him. A divine exchange happens. You pray and pour out and God pours into you.
As we spend time with God in prayer. He reveals things to us. Joy comes from this place of intimacy. God knows as He reveals himself to you through prayer and his word you will begin to know what God knows.
This isn’t spiritually spooky, on the contrary, his sheep know his voice (John 10:27) We should be hearing his voice, receiving direction from him for application to our lives.
When I meet people who have a strong prayer life, I know they have probably walked a hard road.
Sad thing is, most of us don’t just hit our knees because we are overtly spiritual. The people I trust the most are the ones where life itself brought them to their knees, but at their lowest moment and darkest day they encountered a fountain of life within them. An abundant life, a joy no circumstance could steal.
The Holy Spirit gave them hope and restored their joy as they poured their heart out. This is why we can embrace James’ instruction to us even when we prefer a different word of encouragement.
We find it odd that James would tell us to consider the trials we face to be pure joy.
As much as we don’t want trials and spend energy rebuking them, they are developing things within us. We diligently try to pray trials away but they are producing something valuable in us.
Patience in God’s process. Perseverance and endurance. They are growing our faith and developing a stick-to-it mindset.
We can choose joy because we know testing our faith is putting down deep roots which help us to become immovable and unshakeable.
Consider it pure joy , my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.James 1:2
I remember walking through some of the hardest seasons of my spiritual walk with a broken heart, yet I had an inexpressible joy that seemed to be with me because God was writing my story. No matter how much I struggled, I could choose joy because I knew God was working in me and for me. He wouldn’t waste a single trial I went through.
I believed God really was working all things together for my good because I was called according to his purpose. ( Rom.8:28)
It sure didn’t look like it. It didn’t feel like it. I had come out of brokenness. A family background of growing up with a parent that struggled with Mental illness. It still affected me in my adult years.
Anxiety and insecurity gripped me due to growing up in dysfunction. Then, years later I went through a devastating divorce. I had prayed for years for it to be healed and restored but it wasn’t, I wondered if I would recover.
It took years and a commitment to growing spiritually to get free from bondage. I Also sought a good counselor who was beneficial to help me unlearn and learn new skills for my life.
Sorrow and suffering held my hand for some hard seasons but I could choose joy because of God’s promise to us. Right in the middle of my messy life, I could still choose joy.
Those who sow in tears shall reap enjoy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheeps with him.Ps 126:5-6
Friend, He will not waste your pain either. He will collect every tear spilled and begin to do a new thing within you. Joy is still available while you wait and while He works. Don’t forfeit it.
If you choose joy, you will be choosing his strength and His power for your weakness. He’ll rebuild you or rebuild whatever is better than it was before. You can trust His character no matter what our lives look like.
I once heard Priscilla Shirer say after going through severe trials and loss in their family, I can question God without questioning the character of God. I agree.
I have the reminders of scars in my heart that point to trials but God is good. He is always good and He is always kind.
I know what it feels like when you’re sitting at the bottom of a well and it’s a million miles up to get out. It seems ridiculous to hear that we should choose joy, but we can. We will. What’s the alternative? Misery. Defeat. Depletion. Depression.
It might even feel or sound patronizing at times, the whole “ choose joy” blah, blah, blah. I have been in that place too. And I do mean the entire eye-rolling thing but, I knew where it would lead. Another downward spiral. The opposite of what I needed and wanted.
I wish we were face to face so you could hear my voice. You can make it through this season because you’re not alone. There is hope. He is with you.
You might have tears streaming down your face even as you read this with thick darkness around you. There is a way of escape.
Choose joy because His joy is your lifeline and the way to the other side. Grab your quality friend who speaks truth to you and ask them to walk beside you in your hard season.
Another way we experience joy is by thinking of others instead of ourselves. Who can you serve today? When our life is bottoming out it’s hard to think of anyone or anything but what we are facing.
I’m not saying to forfeit time to rest or grieve but don’t stay there longer than necessary. Start thinking about who you can be good to… Who you can bless while you’re in the process of being healed.
5) Live Generously.
Choose joy by living a generous life. Living a generous life is more than just being generous financially.
A generous person is kind with their words. They serve others. What would it look like if you took one entire month and gave something to someone every day of that month? It could be a compliment. A piece of Candy. Cleaning up something for your co-worker.
Buying lunch for a friend. Surprising someone with a gift. Anything that you can give to someone else. It might be removing your favorite earrings for someone because they love them so much.
You may have heard of the acronym- Joy.
In that order.
When we are wounded or in need, it’s easy for it to get reversed. Seeking to get our needs met we can become all-consuming to get them met. The subtlety of self-seeking is when we think others can meet those needs more than God and little by little we start edging God out, being consumed with finding who will meet our needs.
Jesus is more concerned about meeting your needs and satisfying your heart more than you ever could be.
He longs for you to seek his presence more than presents. He knows what you need. He stands at the door of your heart and knocks. Will you answer and choose joy today? It will be one of your best days because you will not be a victim but you will be victorious.