The phrase is plastered all over Pinterest in fancy fonts, having become almost as cliché as “Have a nice day”.
My friend Carrie and I talked it over a few weeks ago; she, in the depressive trenches alongside me. For the likes of us, it’s not a cliché. The choice can make or break us.
On one of her darker days, she admitted, she’d sat in the Starbucks line and sneered at the license plate in front of her: “CHOSJOY”. Annoyed at such positivity, Carrie thought, “I bet she’ll buy my drink.” Well, the joy chooser didn’t disappoint…but it wasn’t just a cup of coffee given that morning. The gesture became a daily reminder for her–she scrawled its giver’s mantra across the cup’s front, beholding the words fondly this time, and kept it in her kitchen.
I, too, need that daily reminder…desperately.
I’ve been a Christian since birth it seems. Raised on Sunday School punch and crackers, I asked Christ into my heart in the 6th grade. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago, as I led a Bible study table (oh, how humbling…), that I finally, fully understood the J-word. My friend Miriam spoke of joy as connected to God. So simple, this concept; yet wholly transformational for me. I’d been chewing on Nehemiah 8:10 for a couple of years, and in that moment, the scales fell from my eyes: “Do not sorrow; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (NKJV, Emphasis mine)
He must have known my heart needed this truth driven even deeper (as one of His signature love-stakes–ever refining and always after our best, as He is). This school year my nine-year-old boy has struggled, and it’s broken me. I’ve watched the melancholy temperament we share give way to listlessness, and then hatred toward school; his joy tank springing a leak before my weary eyes. Failure to thrive. A new mother’s worst nightmare–that terrifying phrase they threw around the pediatrician’s office, moving us to devote our days to nourishing our babes. Turns out, it’s equally devastating to a seasoned mother…
But–as always in God’s economy—devastation has turned into opportunity…He’s reminded me daily en route to school, as I’ve reminded my boy–Choose joy. That there’s always something to be joyful about, regardless of our circumstances, since our joy is tied to a God who is steadfast; unchanging. Our Joy-Source, He’s never-failing, always grace-giving, ever love-lavishing.
Now that’s something to celebrate, is it not? But one recent morning as I read of David and the Israelites “celebrating with all their might before the Lord” with all manner of instruments and merriment, I shook my head. (2 Samuel 6:5, NIV) When was the last time I rejoiced like that? Sometimes I feel like my joy-ometer is broken; that even in the luminous face of my Joy-Source, mine is like an expressionless emoji.
I think we’ve all forgotten how to celebrate, in fact; our world’s a mess, and life—well, it’s HARD. So we seek to bind our broken hearts…but the happiness we spend our days chasing is empty; flimsy. It doesn’t hold up against life’s gales like the real thing: the joy of the Lord. Yes, life beats on us, and depression—it’s a notorious joy squasher–but really? Every day—it’s a gift.
Just ask David—he was known for his often eccentric displays of God-worship, and he was not ashamed. A chapter later, after “leaping and dancing before the Lord”, he tells off his critical wife Michal, defending his zealous performance: “It was before the Lord, who chose me…I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this…” (2 Samuel 6:16, 21-22, NIV)
What joy! And certainly not circumstantial—David had it pretty rough most of his life, fleeing from envy-consumed Saul, and reaping the consequences of his (many) foolish choices. But David knew that God, well, He is and was, GOD. Worthy of his very best. And furthermore—I love this–David reveled in the fact that God chose him. I’m not promoting public displays of slap happy lunacy, but if David could choose joy in his situation, so, my fellow chosen, can we…
…And so, the Word says, does God:
“He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NKJV)
Joy–it’s the cure-all. Let’s dare to choose it…
“Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart; O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more.” (Zephaniah 3:14-15, NKJV)