A while back, after a particularly trying day and a particularly trying encounter with a particularly angry person, I made a commitment to myself.
I choose joy, no matter what.
I was putting up my umbrella of joy, and no one or no thing was going to rain on my parade!
That was scriptural, right? After all, the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Paul says to “rejoice always” (I Thessalonians 5:16).
Those were my thoughts, so I drew a line in the sand. While I would care and pray and serve, I would not allow the grumps and groans of each day to drag me down. I would not!
Within two days a hurricane destroyed my umbrella, and the thunderstorms have not stopped since.
The litany of occurrences and mishaps from the past weeks is not important. What is important to note is that I decided, and the trials of life immediately began to test that commitment.
So, what am I to learn from this.
The first realization I made was that there was a whole lot of “I” in my commitment. “I choose, I put up, my parade, I drew, I would not….” You get the picture. My commitment depended on and was centered in me. My joy.
The joy of the Lord exists in the middle of trials and problems. If joy is a river, it flows from the fountain of Living Water – Jesus Christ. It supersedes circumstances because it is centered in the Lord. It lives in my reliance on and trust in Him. The joy of the Lord lives in my Lord, and I access it as I depend wholly on Him, no matter what is going around me. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit working in my life (Galatians 5:22). It is not a line in the sand; it is a living relationship with my Lord.
Can it sustain me in times of difficulty and trial? Absolutely! But it won’t be because I stiffened my backbone and determined it so. It will be because I carried every care to my Father.
The second realization is that there will always be trial. As long as I am in this world, I will deal with fallen, imperfect people (one of which is me) and circumstances skewed by the prince of this world. I cannot isolate myself from frustrations and annoyances and aggravations and sorrow; they are the currency of doing business in this world.
Jesus promised there would be trouble in this life, but He also promised His peace (John 16:33) and His joy (John 15:11). I must cling closely to Him. He is the One with the authority and power over evil.
My third realization was the reminder that Jesus is my very present help. I may be wading through the swamp, but He holds me up. He gives me strength. He will see me through.
Even though my umbrella was demolished, God’s joy still resounds in my heart. Some days it happily crashes and tumbles like a rushing stream, and other days it flows quietly, soothing my heart. The joy of the Lord is unstoppable, unquenchable, and not dependent on my lines in the sand.
That is why I can rejoice always.
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Psalm 43:4 Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.
Psalm 126:5 Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Habakkuk 3:18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Photo – Butterfly with Cone Flower, Beth Mims