Recently, I found myself battling a severe case of discouragement and weariness, and a need for direction from the Lord. Often times, I am able to pray and ask God to give me what I need, and I soon find that He has given me joy and strength in place of discouragement and weariness, and has given me things to encourage me. This time, however, it wasn’t happening as quickly as I wanted. As I was expressing my frustration about this to God, I felt like He said “Choose joy.”
I immediately felt my spirit resist and bristle. “No, Lord!” was my initial reaction. I was still waiting for Him to give me clear direction. And, I actually wanted Him to just give me joy without requiring any step of faith on my part. Choosing joy right there in that moment sounded like too much for Him to ask of me. The real problem was that I felt entitled to a little self-pity and a little frustration. I felt I had the right to avoid choosing joy, and instead wanted to wait until God gave me answers before I let my heart be joyful.
This time He was asking me to choose joy before He answered my prayers for guidance and practical encouragement. And I didn’t think that sounded fair or easy. But I knew if He was asking me to do it, then it wasn’t impossible, and it was the best thing for me to do. Nothing in me felt joyful or wanted to feel joyful. But when it comes to obeying God, our feelings can’t be the determining factor. So, I took a step of faith and told God I would choose to be joyful right in that moment, and I asked Him to help me do it.
And as soon as I took that step of obedience, guess what came? Joy. The hard part is that something like choosing joy when we don’t feel like it isn’t a one-time choice. The waves of doubt and discouragement didn’t stop trying to overwhelm me, and I found myself having to choose joy over and over again. But “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). That’s not just a flowery phrase. That’s a promise from the throne room of heaven, a promise backed by the blood of Jesus Christ for those who truly put their trust in Him.
Choosing joy when nothing in me wants to choose joy is included in “all things” – just like every other thing God calls me to do. Not by my own effort or power, but through faith in Christ and in His power. “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
I’ve learned that I can choose joy regardless of my circumstances, and regardless of whether or not I’ve gotten an answer to my prayer yet. And God did then give me the guidance I needed and the practical encouragement for which I asked. He is so good!