I remember marveling one day at the parenting skills of my sister-in-law with her young toddler. When she foresaw her son about to make a poor choice, she quickly piped in, “Do you want to make a bad choice or a good choice?” The bad choice entailed biting the baby brother while the good choice involved walking away from trouble. From her strict, yet loving, voice came a convincing tone, which resonated, “You better do what I say or there will be consequences.” Secretly, I was always jealous of her consistent, parenting skills. She is a teacher and I swear she was given a secret handbook for handling kids that the rest of us have had to learn through trial and error (mostly error on my part).
Similarly, we are told to choose joy in the midst of adversity. Like seriously, we have a choice? It often seems like our circumstances demand to be accompanied by a certain attitude or moodiness. It is more common to groan, moan and complain. Misery often finds others who are miserable.
“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
I am a child of God. I belong to Him. It is much easier to focus on my short-comings, my weaknesses, my problems, and my pain than it is to focus only on Him [God]. Why? I can visibly see what is going on in my physical realm. I can see that my life is far from perfect. But it is a far stretch to keep my focus on things above because it involves a personal choice.
Will I choose to serve Him? Will I choose to trust Him? Will I choose to believe?
Doubt and fear come crashing in like strong waves thrashing us against the rocks. If only we looked up to see the rock is Him, our stronghold, our fortress. Anything and everything that come into our life are to drive us closer to Him. There is no such thing as circumstance or coincidence. God permits things in our life so we can experience Him more, see Him more, and become more like Him.
“I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
Joy is not merely a by-product, but rather a work that is being completed in you. Joy is not something we create in ourselves, but rather a completing work of Christ. He is doing a good work in you. He is hand-picking situations and circumstances for your life which will move you closer to Him. Unfortunately, our biggest hindrance in experiencing joy most often is ourselves.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18