“When Joy is Not a Choice” by Kelly Wilson Mize
When Joy is Not a Choice
The instant I stepped off the curb, I heard an ultra-peppy voice in the distance that seemed to mimic the vibrant tone of the autumn colors surrounding us. “SMILE!” the enthusiastic stranger called out.
I was startled to the point of physically jumping, and ever-so-cautiously turned to see an irritatingly cheerful woman beaming brightly in my direction. I looked all around me, thinking (cue Robert De Niro), Are you talking to me, Lady, because I KNOW you are not talking to me!
She was talking to me.
I must have looked pretty miserable for a complete stranger to find it necessary to go out of her way to exhume my face from the pit of death into her own unicorn-inhabited fantasy world.
It was one of those days when I was overwhelmed by the length of my to-go and to-do lists. Deep in thought (as usual), I was performing mental gymnastics: flipping, twisting, and turning every obstacle and possibility. And that’s where my new ‘friend’ found me…
People who know me understand that I can be life of the party, or the most socially awkward person in the room. I hate to admit it, but even as a “mature” adult woman in her 40s, my emotions sometimes get the best of me: weepy, grouchy, overly-sensitive, pessimistic–all of the above. The cure? We hear it all the time…
There are a thousands articles, T-shirts, posters, and social-media reminders. It all sounds so easy, and right, and good. Just set your mind to it and voila! That’s what Christians are supposed to do. We are to choose Joy. Get on board with Nike®, and just do it!
But let’s be real. There are days we just can’t–days when bouncy, cheerful people make us want to scream or punch something. On those days, we feel like we have zero power to be positive, and absolutely no strength to choose joy. We are sad, insecure, and ungrateful. So on those days (the ones that Mama and the Bible said would inevitably come), here’s some greatnews: It is not through our own frail ability that we choose joy, but through God’s omnipotence.
Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT) says “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”I don’t know about you, but I desperately need that strength in my life.
We can’t summon it out of thin air, but we know that with God, anything is possible. When we yield to His will, being still and knowing that He is God, He can change us: all the ugly, selfish, disobedient, joy-LESS parts of us that we are so ashamed of.
Sure, we can choose joy using our own strength, but that feel-good temperament will be short-lived. However, when we submit to the authority of GOD to change us, He can transform us to the very core.
Body, mind, and spirit.
The Bible promises that with His help, we can experience that elusive joy within our deepest being.
“…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
But courageous faith is not always easy, and harder for some of us than others. So give your sometimes grouchy sister (or yourself!) a break! She may be trying harder than you realize. And human striving, as we all know, can be futile.
Regardless of mood, maturity, level of emotional stability, or circumstances–when we open ourselves up and surrender to God’s life-changing power, we can we experience genuine joy. It won’t necessarily be displayed with a sugary smile and purring words, and it won’t be a euphoric feeling that is present every minute of every day. Instead, it’s an overall, inner assurance that as Christians, we have the ultimate reason to be at peace. So let’s claim it.
I don’t believe that any of us will truly arrive at perfect joy until we reach the gates of heaven. But until then, may we surrender to God’s immeasurable grace to change us. Because without His strength…
Even when we try our hardest,
Even when our friends and family encourage us,
Even when the most well-meaning stranger calls out to us on the street…
Joy is really not a choice at all.
Written by ~ Kelly Wilson Mize
Kelly Wilson Mize considers it a personal, God-given mission to encourage others with words. She is a wife, mother of two teenagers, librarian at Westminster Christian Academy, and freelance writer who has lived in the Huntsville area for over twenty years. Kelly has a master’s degree in elementary education, and over a decade of teaching experience in both private and public schools. She also has a variety of published writing experience including numerous articles and interviews, various curriculum projects, hundreds of devotions for both children and adults, and contributions to six books. Kelly’s credits include LifeWay Christian Resources, Focus on the Family, Adams Media, and Group Publishing. Visit Kelly’s author page: Follow her on Twitter @kellywilsonmize.