Choose Joy! But you gotta think right. Joy: #3
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This morning, I ordered coffee at the Rendezvous in the old Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff. Standing next to me was a young man, maybe 28 years of age, wearing skin tight black jeans, flashy leather jacket, mirrored glasses and a decorative white fur scarf, with head phones in and credit card poised to pay for his coffee. ‘Good Morning,’ I said to him, ‘what are you listening to?’ ‘Princess Nokia—time to turn off her aggressive stuff,’ he said, reaching to make a change on his phone. ‘Can I ask you a question?’ ‘Yes, of course.’ ‘Do you think it is possible that joy is a choice?’ He stood there a moment, and said, ‘yeah, I guess it is. I mean, I can choose to think good thoughts that make me happy or focus on the negative or pessimistic and feel that way…huh.’ ‘So, you mention happiness - do you think happiness is the same thing as joy?’ I queried a little further.
Oh, I know, I know, and I am well aware that he was not expecting to have any sort of conversation like this before 8 am or before he had his first sip of coffee, but these random snatches of conversation with strangers are fascinating. ‘Well do you think happiness is the same thing?’ he asked me. Smiling inside, I said, ‘Actually, I don’t. I’ve looked into it a little, and happiness comes from the same root word as happenstance and haphazard, so happiness is really quite fragile then, I think, while I do not believe joy is.’ We stood there in silence for a few minutes, and then he said, ‘I guess I don’t really stop and think about these things, or talk about them too much…you from around here?’ ‘Not really, no.’ [What if we sparked conversations like these regularly?]
Here’s where we are with choosing joy. Even in the midst of rough water, these things keep me afloat and assured:
~God is good
~God does good
~Nothing that comes my way catches God off guard
~God is always at work1…“My Father is always working, and so am I.” Jesus
~And though my heart may ache at times, my joy has not been robbed because I really do trust God.’
Step a little closer, please. I concur with the statement that what I believe about God is the most important thing about me.2 What’s more what I believe about God determines everything about me, [and most certainly my joy!]
That begs the question, ‘Who shaped your view of God? Stop and think about that a moment. For instance, I was raised mostly in the Baptist church; what I learned from my mom, in Sunday School and my Christian high school pretty much shaped my view of God until I got into college. At that time, I began writing in a journal asking questions about God and questions of God; I was on a personal quest to know God for myself.
Also at that time, I began attending an Assemblies of God church in the inner city (San Francisco), and had a very broadening experience in my understanding of God and worshiping him.
Why talk about God in regard to choosing joy? Our level of inner joy and contentment is based on the trust we have in knowing we are created by a benevolent, almighty God who made us for relationship with him; and in relationship with him, there is joy – and only in relationship with him. Hence this expression from the psalmist:
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.3
In his presence . . . joy! Gaining knowledge from God’s Word and others what relationship with God looks like, it all makes sense. There is an almighty, all-loving, omniscient God who we can know and live with forever, because of Jesus Christ and his life and death for us. But Jesus does not force himself on anyone, each of us must choose. If we choose to follow him, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit comes joy! As Paul explained, joy is one of the evidences that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in us.4
Since joy is linked with the heart of God, it makes complete sense that when his spirit is in us, we can truly know joy! This is my prayer for you:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.5
1 – John 5.17
2 – The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer
3 – Psalm 16.11, NASB
4 – Galatians 5.22-23
5 – Romans 15.13, NASB