By Dana Chavers
“Look for joy in all ways, always.” Sounds ridiculously impossible. But I really do try.
Why am I looking for joy? It’s because Philippians 4:4 says to ALWAYS be full of joy in the Lord.
Not easy; sometimes impossible… like when my husband of 21 years told me he was no longer in love with me. Or when both of my brothers died prematurely. Or when my adult children made choices that were not wise. Or when a worldwide pandemic forced me out of a job that I just knew would be mine until retirement, my dream position. How about when my precious sister and mama died within 3 months of each other?
I’ll be the first to tell you joy was not my first emotion or reaction in any of these situations.
ALWAYS be full of joy in the Lord??
Webster says that always means “at all times; invariably.” EVERY TIME.
But another definition of always is: “as a last resort; failing all else.” For example, if my Mini Cooper breaks down, I can always rent a car (maybe a Tesla?) while it’s being repaired.
Both of these definitions fit into my life’s predicaments. I strive to put forth my best effort to ALWAYS find joy… but as a last resort sometimes. How can there be joy while facing betrayal, unwanted life changes, or seeing loved ones suffer and die prematurely?
Well, it can be done, but it’s not easy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, the very Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. If the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in me, I CAN find joy if I’m looking for it and pursuing it.
Kay Warren defines joy as “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”
So basically, she’s saying that even though my world is chaotically churning. My emotions are spinning out of control due to tragic situations. God is in the details, and tragedy is survivable. Still, adjusting to the changes, I must press on differently. I can do all things through Christ because of the strength He’s put in me through the Holy Spirit. I hate grieving, but I’m thankful my Savior has experienced grief. He understands at the deepest level what I’m facing as I mourn. It comforts me to know that Jesus wept so He understands when I’m not full of joy.
It’s a day-by-day (sometimes minute-by-minute!) process to find joy in living when it’s not how you thought your life would be. I choose to celebrate life daily, deliberately looking for things that bring me joy. Maybe it’s the sun shining on a spring day that makes me smile. Or spotting a single dandelion while stopped in traffic. Or hearing a song on the radio or watching a made-up play performed by my grandkids. Maybe receiving a smile from a sweet older stranger brings joy for a second… Or finding a front-row parking place at Walmart (also referred to as a miracle). Or receiving an unexpected gift of a dark chocolate bar…. joy can be seen in the small things.
Joy comes when I am determined to press on, holding onto my Father’s hand-even if it is just His pinky finger-and knowing I can scream and cry and pitch a fit…but then when my sobbing spasms are over (which I refer to as “snubbin”), crawl up into His lap and allow Him to hold and comfort me until the sadness passes. I’m His girl, and He’s a good Daddy, so it’s safe to let Him know when there’s no joy to be found.
Joy is not my natural response when my world is crashing in, but I’ve made it an option, something accessible even though survivor’s guilt or having a victim mentality would try to steal it away. Giving myself permission to have joy when life is hard is truly freeing.