When it’s a picture-perfect day outside, smiling comes naturally. If the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the breeze is blowing and the sky is blue, that should be enough to be joyful, right?
I remember when it used to be enough.
There was a time when finding joy came easily for me, especially when the weather wielded a beautiful day. I’d lace up my sneakers, walk outside and smile blissfully as I breathed in the sweet smell of pine, tasted the fresh air and felt the warm sun flood my face.
But sitting on my best friend’s couch the other night, I cried as I had to admit: I’m not the same joyful person I used to be.
It’s true — for being a woman who hosts a podcast named “Finding Joy,” I’m not as quick to find joy as I once was.
Several years ago, before we had a name for my health problems, I found a beautiful print that read, “today, I choose joy.” At this point in my life, I was starting to understand that experiencing joy really was a choice. It didn’t matter if my life was turning out to be a fairytale dream or a complete mess — I could choose to be miserable, or I could choose joy.
Most of the time, making the right choice wasn’t too difficult of a task. But on the hard days, I needed a visual reminder to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. So, after downloading the print, I immediately made it the background to my computer screen.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, today I can see that having “today, I choose joy,” constantly in front of my face is what kept me accountable and helped me make better decisions each and every day.
I don’t remember when I changed my computer background, but somewhere along the way, the “today, I choose joy,” print was no more.
And then somewhere along the way, life got hard.
And with that hardness came a slow and silent hardening of my own heart. It’s not like I woke up one morning and instantly felt cold, sad and bitter toward the world. I didn’t want my heart to become hard … it just happened.
The more I dwelled on the mess of my life, and the more I forgot to choose joy, the harder my heart became and the harder it was to find joy in the everyday.
When life got hard, I stopped looking for the good in people and situations. When life sent me disappointment after disappointment, I stopped expecting things to work out. Instead of focusing on what would go right, I focused on what could go wrong. When life didn’t get better, I wallowed in my brokenness. When life overwhelmed me, I grew ashamed of the woman I’d become.
All of this overwhelm is what led me to my best friend’s couch just weeks ago. We’d shared Dairy Queen ice cream together, and talked and cried for hours …
And that’s when the question hit me: When had I become so negative? When had I become fixated on my brokenness? When had I stopped looking for the good in my life and in my faith?
As a writer and a speaker, I tell others to seek God’s face and choose joy in ALL circumstances, but could the same be said of me? I shuddered to myself as I had to admit: no, no it couldn’t.
I wonder if you’ve ever felt the same way.
The morning after spending some time with my sweet friend, I took out a piece of paper, and on it I wrote: It’s time to start seeing beyond the struggle. It’s time to redeem and celebrate the faith I have in Christ. It’s time to walk away from the dark and toward the light. These three declarations are the standards I’m holding myself to these days.
Today, I will not focus on the could’ve beens and should’ve beens. Today, I will not dwell in the darkness. Today, I will not forget what Jesus has done for me.
Today, I will choose to choose joy again. And I hope you’ll choose it with me too.
Here’s the reality: life is hard. It’s messy, complicated, and aside from the Bible, there’s no rule book on how to be an adult (#AdultingIsHard, right?!). After enduring years of suffering to varying degrees, I can testify that if we aren’t careful, this hardness can and will eventually harden our hearts. And if we don’t take a stand against the dark and fight to see the light using God’s Word as our weapon, we stay stuck in the dark.
We forget to look for the good. We forget to seek God’s face. We forget to choose joy.
Sweet friends, let’s push back the dark. Let’s declare right here, right now that we won’t let the darkness encapsulate our hearts. Instead, we will run to God’s Word and run to the light. We will refuse to let the enemy steal our joy. We will choose to see beyond the struggle. We will choose to celebrate the goodness of our faith. And we will choose joy, even when it hurts. I’ll leave you with Paul’s command from Ephesians 6:13:
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
P.S. Also want to share this amazing song from Britt Nicole with you today. Any time I’m feeling down, stuck or unmotivated, THIS is the song I listen to to help me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. He is our rising sun. He is our victory. The chorus captivates me every time I hear it, and the graphic you saw earlier in this post is actually a printable I designed in light of this song. The printable is yours to download for FREE to put in your home. You can also Pin It to Pinterest to share with your friends!
P.P.S. Remember that wallpaper I was telling you about? Well … I decided to design a new one! It is currently my desktop background, and I hope you’ll join me in choosing joy by downloading the free wallpaper below to put on your computer (just click on the image to save the file!) XOXO, Lauren.
DOWNLOAD THIS FREE, “TODAY I CHOOSE JOY WALLPAPER” FOR YOUR COMPUTER >>
Coming next week … new episodes of the Finding Joy Podcast and a new blog series to help you discover the power of prayer. Stay tuned!