There are many choices we are faced with in our lives. There are those that are typically referred to as the big choices, such as which college we will attend, which job offer we will accept, & where we will live. Choices such as these are indeed important, but we usually are presented with them only once, or at most a small handful of times, during the course of our lives.
We are often faced with moral choices. A salesclerk, for example, gives us change for $20 rather than change for the $10 we gave her. Do we tell her she made a mistake, or do we say nothing & pocket the extra money?
Of course each day presents us with many practical choices such as what we will have for dinner, or should we take an umbrella with us when we go to the store.
All of these choices can impact our lives in one way or another, but being joyful despite what's happening around us is one of the most important choices we can make. Believe me, I know how hard this is. Please know that I am not being disrespectful in what I'm about to say ... I am just stating facts for the purpose of my topic today. My mother was very negative. She constantly (& I do mean constantly) complained about everything & everyone. For whatever reason, she seemed to particularly enjoy finding fault with me. It would be impossible for me to count the number of times I was told that I said something stupid, did something stupid, looked stupid, dressed stupid, walked stupid, had stupid interests, etc. I couldn't do anything right. My appearance was always criticized. I remember people coming to visit & me hiding upstairs in my room because I thought why would they want to see such a stupid & ugly person. I'm surprised I was able to make any friends at school, & when I did I was told they weren't really my friends ... they were just hanging out with me because I had something they wanted. She was quick to tell me & anyone else ... including strangers on a bus or in line at a grocery store ... what a disappointment I was. I could go on, but I'm sure this give you enough information to understand a bit of what I had to deal with.
All this criticism lasted well into my adult years & it, along with my own experiences with life's hard knocks, eventually wore me down to the point where choosing joy was a foreign concept to me. After becoming a Christian, I would read Bible references about choosing joy & books written about being joyful. I remember specifically thinking that these people didn't have a full grasp on reality. It took a long, long, long time for me to understand that joy isn't the result of everything in our lives being perfect. We can choose to be joyful despite what others think of us, despite how much money we have in the bank, despite how we look or how much we weigh, despite anything!
I read a great quote from Habakkuk recently ... chapter 3, verse 18 (NIV).
It's a good, strong verse, isn't it ... but let's look at it along with the verse immediately preceding it.
"Though the fig tree does not bud
& there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
& the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
& no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
The Message translation paints an even more awe-inspiring picture of the point the prophet was making.
"Though the cherry trees don't blossom
& the strawberries don't ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
& the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
& the cattle barns empty,
I'm singing joyful praise to God.
I'm turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God."
What is Habakkuk's point? His point is that even though everything in his life appears to be falling apart, he knows that God is in control & it is in this that he rejoices. Note again verse 18 in the NIV translation ... "...I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior" [emphasis mine]. Habakkuk is making a conscious decision to choose joy despite what is going on around him. He has the joy of knowing God is in control, & what better joy is there?
Just for fun, you might want to consider verses 17-18 & see if you can adapt them to reflect things you feel might be draining joy from your own life. For example, someone might adapt these verses to read something like this ...
"Though my car is making a funny noise
& there is water backing up into my basement,
Though my son has been expelled from school
& my husband is having an affair,
Though my arthritis is getting worse
& the doctor suspects I have lung cancer,
I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
We can choose to be joyful no matter what because God is in control of our lives. We are commanded many times in the Bible to be joyful at all times. When we choose to be joyful, we are choosing to obey God. When we obey God, we honor Him. When we honor Him, it pleases Him. I like to know that I am making choices that please God. I'm sure you do as well : )