Growing up, I was always reminded by my mother to “choose joy” in situations that might make me grumpy. She even bought my sisters and I an odd, slightly creepy smiley face poster with that motto on it so that we could not forget to be joyful. Another of her favorite quotes, also on a poster hanging in our bathroom, was Abraham Lincoln’s “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Choice is a powerful gift. Both terrible and beautiful things enter our world because of people’s free choice. Sometimes another’s freedom causes us pain, inconvenience, anger, or simply annoyance. It is in these times that, although we cannot control what happens to us, we have our own choice to make.
This past week I was a counselor for 7 and 8 year old girls at a Christian camp in New York. It was an amazing week! This is the second year in a row that I was the counselor for this age group, but this year was more enjoyable for me than last. Why? Because this year I decided ahead of time to work on choosing joy throughout the week.
Little girls have a ton of energy. Last year, I saw that as a drawback to working with that age group. This year, I chose to embrace it. With the Holy Spirit’s encouragement I started to look for God in my campers’ silliness and spirit, and I found Him! I saw His spirit of adventure in the way that they wanted to go swim in the lake each day, even though I was bundled up in a hoodie. In the sweet way that they showed concern for each other with lots of questions and big hugs, I saw His deep and compassionate love. I embraced the craziness of table-banging and silly-face-making during camp songs and found the Lord’s joy in counseling my girls.
My experience last week was a small example of choosing joy in a situation where it was relatively easy for me to do so. In my case, the “hardships” I overcame with joy were merely the result of my own tiredness or bad attitude. Still, the Lord is not limited to helping us smile in the face of slight irritations.
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” In any situation, no matter how big the challenge you face, it is possible to press on in the total strength of the Lord when you choose to be joyful with Him and for Him. I see that in the way that not one, but two women I know have overcome cancer through continually trusting and hoping in God. I see it in the way that my parents have persevered in difficult work situations in the past, leaning on the Lord to provide for our family. I see joy-choosing exemplified in my uncle, whose unrelenting faith and cheerfulness has carried him through the tragedy of losing his wife and through his own serious illness.
Take a look at your life. How can you not find something to be joyful about? From the moment you get out of bed each day, decide to cheerful rely on God and you will find that you are made strong. Even when it feels like everything is out of your control, you can make a choice in how you respond. Choose joy.
**My parents have read the book Choice Theory by William Glasser and a lot of what they taught me growing up about our ability to choose joy came from this book. I hope to read it soon and pass on their recommendation of its excellence.