Choosing Joy

Saturday, March 29, 2014

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

Joy- Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness

 This is what you find if you look up the word joy in a dictionary. That is the widely accepted meaning of the word. But like so many beautiful things, joy is so much more than the simple definition.

We have this tendency to believe that joy and happiness are one and the same, but I don't think they are.

See, happiness is an emotion that is entirely dependent on circumstances. When good things happen (we eat a bar of chocolate, someone gives us a hug, we find a lost thing, etc.) we are happy. But when bad things happen (the car breaks down, we get sick, we end up late to work, etc.), our happiness is replaced by frustration, anger, sadness... We are emotional beings, and happiness (along with anger, sadness, and frustration) is an emotion.

But joy... joy is not an emotion. Joy is a fruit of the spirit. It is not dependent on our circumstances or the things around us. None of the other things that are the fruit of the spirit are dependent on circumstances , so why would joy be? I mean, you won't hear someone say, "Love everyone, but if something bad happens, it doesn't really matter." Alright- you might. But we know that's not true. ("A friend loves at all times..." Proverbs 17:17. "Love your neighbor as yourself" Matthew 22:39. "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor. 13:13...)

So many things that go on in life try to steal our joy from us- loss, suffering, depression, illness, fear, betrayal... But the Bible says "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) God wants you to be joyful! To celebrate His love and grace and mercy. Why else would He give us feasts if not to remember the great and wonderful things He has done?!?!

I know from experience that it can be very hard to rejoice always. When you are sick or hurting, it is hard to see past the pain to recognize how much there is to rejoice about. But that's why we must fight for our joy! That's why we have to work together to remind each other of all the things we have to be joyful about- our salvation, the blessings God has given us, His everlasting mercy....

And that is why I love the new album by Rend Collective, and their video explaining the meaning behind it- because it sums up in just a few minutes everything that I have thought for a very long time!

Their whole album is beautiful, and a wonderful reminder of how much in life there is to rejoice over. How can anyone have a frown on their face while singing "My Lighthouse"? It's just not possible.

And that is also why I love the church that I and my family are a part of. Because it's not all doom and gloom. Everything doesn't have to be serious and reserved. No one frowns upon clapping, or singing off-key. It's OK to be undignified.

 So go ahead. Jump up and down to your favorite song. Sing super-duper loudly. Celebrate all of the great things God has done for you! Because when you're focusing on all of your blessings, the hardship seems so small in comparison.

(Here's your chance to jump up and down!)

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