I have a friend who has found the secret of joy. She has not lived an easy life. She has overcome alcoholism, a debilitating spinal cord injury and the loss of her mother. But none of those things define her. What defines her is the three little words she puts at the end of every Facebook post I see. “I choose Joy.”
Webster defines the word joy as the ” emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. The state of happiness or felicity.” But Biblical Joy is more than just a state or feeling its an attitude, one you have to decide to choose daily.
Tim Macke of the Bible Project explains it this way in their video Chara: Joy. (You can view the video herehttps://youtu.be/qvOhQTuD2e0.) ” Joy is an attitude God’s people adopt not because of happy circumstances but because of their hope in God’s love and promise.”
When my friend, Stephanie Bowman, decided to start choosing joy she was not in a happy circumstance. She was grieving the loss of her mother. After spending a few weeks in a deep depression she realized She needed to make changes and could choose joy from within herself. “I can’t change depression but can change how I address it and change my attitude,” Bowman said.
This attitude of joy can be seen as a theme in both the new and old testament. When the Israelites escaped the Egyptians after the red sea was parted they found themselves in the desert and the first thing they did was sing for joy. Even though they were in the desert and the promise land was far away they still celebrated.
Isaiah writes about the coming of the Lord with joy. “So the redeemed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away,” Isaiah 51:11 AMP
Jesus spoke of having joy when you are insulted and persecuted in Matthew 5:12-13 “Blessed ( morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness) are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of (your association with) me. Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great (absolutely inexhaustible) for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
James said “Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you fall into various trials.” James 1:2
Paul spoke tons about being joyful and content. Philippians 3:1 :Finally my fellow believers continue to rejoice and delight in the Lord.”
Mackie puts it this way, “The joy of Gods people is not determined by their struggles but by their future destiny.” We can be joyful because we know the end game. We know who is going to win in the end and that were on the winning team. We can rejoice that in the end our affliction will be healed, our emptiness will be made whole, justice will be served and Jesus will return.
Do we still struggle with our circumstances? Of course. Bowman said it wonderfully, “I can be mad, sad and have all those feelings but in the end I accept things and have a positive attitude.” Bowman and I agree that this is a hard thing to do when your in the blows of depression. Bowman has struggled with depression her whole life. She said she still struggles with it ” Everyday but I just can’t let it define who I am. And when your in the depths of depression it sounds hokey, But some of it can be controlled by you.”
Choosing joy is a weapon that sets us above our circumstances. Bowman has used much of the memory of her mother to help her get through dark days. She said her mom always called her, “her little Joybell.” and even had a tattoo made of her mother’s handwriting with a bell labeled joy below it. She also has adopted her mother’s two favorite verses to be her own. Psalms 118:24 “This is the day the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” and Psalms 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable and pleasing in your sight, O Lord my rock and my Redeemer.”
“I choose to let my thoughts and my actions be positive to glorify God.” Bowman said.
When asked what she would say to someone who struggles with depression Bowman said,” Don’t give up. There’s so much out there about suicide but it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You wont’ stay in that valley forever.” She also said, ” Reach out. Things are not always as perfect as on social media.”
Having a friend like her is such a good reminder to me that I can also choose joy whatever circumstance I find myself in. I hope this encourages you to choose joy too.