7 Tools for Choosing Joy Regardless of Your Circumstances
God doesn’t change when my circumstances change.
What refreshing truth. That I can cling to His Word when my life shifts, when my body fails, or when my heart breaks. Because His character and His ways are constant.
Could you use that truth today?
It happened two years ago. I was a dancer and a dance teacher. Teaching 17 classes a week. With three beautiful children who were, at the time, all under the age of 4. My husband and I loved to take our little ones on long hikes through beautiful trails when the leaves were turning, just like they are right now.
And then, all in one weekend, I lost my ability to walk. All at once, I lost being able to nurse my baby (who had severe dietary allergies and I was his only food source at the time). I lost my dancing career. I lost my idea of what it looked like to be a wife and a mom. My husband had to carry me from room to room. I couldn't hold my kids. Couldn't even kiss them goodnight in their beds because the wheelchair that became my legs for months wouldn't fit around the corner in the hallway.
I was given a diagnosis with no known cure and only the hope of remissions. I didn't know if I would ever walk freely again, or if I would ever have relief from the constant, excruciating pain. I had no idea about what life was going to look like from there. It certainly wasn't going to look like it had before.
But, when I couldn't see my next steps, the one thing I could see was the one thing I can also never lose: Jesus. The Bible says, "Rejoice always," (Philippians 4:4). And it doesn't qualify it with "....when things are going your way." It simply says, "Rejoice." So, that was what I determined myself to do. To rejoice. Always. It was the only hope I had for getting through it all. I was going to choose joy.
Because, the truth is, rejoicing isn't about me and what my life looks like. It's about God and who He is. And He doesn't change when my circumstances change. He is always faithful. Always loving. Always constant. Always good.
And I knew that, no matter what the future looked like, and no matter how much pain and inability and unpredictability might characterize my future, He would carry me.
It was two years ago when I received the diagnosis. October 19, 2014. And we've been on a wild ride since then. From hospital stays to life-threatening seizures to spine procedures to physical therapy. From wheelchairs to crutches to leg-warmers in 90-degree weather to re-learning how to walk. From rock bottom in our marriage after about six months of the drastic life-change to months and months of counseling to indescribable peace and beautiful unity.
I've learned about laying down pride. I've learned about rest. I've learned about my identity in Christ. I've learned about God's faithfulness. I've learned about letting go of control. I've learned about real love. I've learned about provision. I've learned about grace. I've learned about walking through pain.
It's been a hard road, for sure. I wouldn't trade it for anything, because I'm in awe of all that God has done through this hard journey.
"And we know in all things that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose," (Romans 8:28).
This very week, though, my friend, I get to tell you that I'm not only walking...but I'm also nearly pain-free!! For about five days now, I'm kind of stunned by it, because I feel better right now than I've felt in two years. And CRPS is unpredictable. So, I never know if I'll even be walking tomorrow. But I'm relishing every second of this pain-free season (no matter how long it lasts). I'm giving God all the glory.
And I'm still choosing joy. Because joy comes from the One who has carried me every day from the beginning until now. He's my hope. He's my strength. He's my song. He's my everything.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me," (Psalm 51:10, 12).
7 tools for Choosing Joy regardless of your circumstances:
1. Rejoice in who God is. Pray because He's listening and He cares. Give thanks no matter what.
"Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus," (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 4:4-7).
2. Believe that God knows exactly what you need and that he will give it to you.
"And my God will meet all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 4:19).
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life,” (Matthew 6:26-27).
3. Trust that, if you've given your life to Jesus, absolutely nothing can separate you from God's love, and nothing can pull you away from His arms.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:'“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Romans 8:35-39).
4. Be willing to look at how you might be able to grow through it and become stronger because of it.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything," (James 1:2-4).
5. Let God be enough for you.
"I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord. Apart from you I have no good thing.' . .Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. . . You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand," (Psalm 16:2, 5, 11)
6. Memorize Scripture.
God's Word is our greatest offense against the attacks of the enemy. It's the voice of truth that guards our hearts and leads us in the right direction. The more we know God's Word, the more we hear his promises ringing in our minds in the times we need them most (Check out my Hidden: Scripture Memory Journal if you're looking for more in this area).
"My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life," (Psalm 119:50).
"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you," (Psalm 119:11).
7. Remember that we're not home yet. The best is yet to come.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us," (Romans 8:18).
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast,” (1 Peter 5:10).
"Joy Challenge" is the cry of my own heart on my journey to choose joy through this debilitating and incredibly painful nerve disorder (#crps) that kicked my feet out from underneath me. Could you use a fresh dose of joy when the ground beneath you gets shaky? Fill up your soul with "Joy Challenge," an all-in-one Bible study and devotional journal.
How about you?
What stands out to you the most about the idea of choosing joy?
Which one of the 7 tools above would be most helpful to you right now?