Those two simple words have changed my life in more ways than I can count. Several years ago I had them tattooed on my wrist as a daily reminder, but they have been seared on my heart long before that.
Each day I have to “choose joy” and keep choosing it. Most days for this happy go lucky girl, it’s easy to find the joy. When things are going well and all is right in my world, it’s easy to choose joy.
But we all know that’s not really when it counts.
It’s where the rubber meets the road and deep in the trenches where choosing joy is where it matters most.
When life hands you a sucky hand of cards and you’re not seeing any way out, it’s darn hard to choose joy.
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says….
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Give thanks IN ALL circumstances. (Which I read as…..crappy, hard circumstances. The ones where it’s never easy to give thanks. Notice we’re supposed to give thanks IN the circumstances, not after we’re through them too!)
When “choose joy” became my life’s motto, it really scared me, because honestly, that’s never been my first reaction when these “all circumstances” come. My nature is to freak out or even worse complain and grumble.
I had to be intentional with choosing joy.
Thirteen years of living overseas has given me ample opportunities to put this practice of choosing joy to the test. Many days I still fall very short, but I can say that as a general rule that when the grumble starts to rise (and maybe even spill out!) I can stop, redirect my thoughts and choose joy.
I have to choose joy and keep choosing it…..every day. Sometimes, every moment.
When my dad was hospitalized I learned a new level of choosing joy.
Choosing joy in the midst of deep sorrow.
That final day in the hospital after hard decisions had been made and wires were removed, the three of us knew what was ahead. My sister had made the 2 hour drive from Altamont and she and my mom had stepped out of the room to grab a drink. I sat there alone with my dad in the stillness. No more beeping sounds or IV’s pumping…..just quiet in my dad’s last hours. As I moved closer to his side, I sensed something that washed over me like a warm blanket. I wasn’t alone. The Peace that passes all understanding was blanketing that room and drawing my broken heart closer to Him. I can’t explain it, but in that moment that room felt like holy ground, sacred and peaceful in a way that I’ve never experienced before.
Philippians 4:4-7 came to my mind….
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is NEAR! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. “
“Oh Lord, my daddy is dying and my heart literally feels like it’s going to break….it hurts.”
The Lord spoke so clear to my heart….”I know, Sarah. This is just another lesson on our series of choosing joy, and this joy often is one of the hardest……choosing joy in the midst of deep sorrow and pain. Find it and lean into it!”
Once again, that peace that passes all understanding flooded into my heart, and the only word I have to describe what I felt in that moment was true unspeakable joy in the midst of such deep heartache. In the heartache I couldn’t help but think that soon, my dad would be standing in the throne room of heaven, worshiping that same Lord face to face and hearing, “Well done my good and faithful servant….welcome home!”
My tears of deep sorrow turned to tears of joy. (Okay….still with a hefty mix of sadness but…)
I just began to thank the Lord for what an amazing father that he had given me and that even though this was all ending too soon and I wasn’t ready to let go, I would be forever grateful for the years that I had with him on this earth and for all the amazing things he and my mother instilled in me and my sister. Also that my dad was a true example and model on earth of what my Father in Heaven is to me.
Later that afternoon, my dad was moved to the hospice floor of the hospital, in a beautiful room with the most amazing care team around him. He was there less than three hours before he left his three girls (my mom, my sister, and me) and did his glorious fly up to heaven. Once again, that room became holy ground and peace that passes all understanding came over us. Our hearts were sad and broken but we knew dad was in that throne room……
No more pain Dad.
No more stage 4 cancer.
“Well done good and faithful servant…..welcome home!”
Sarah Witt, mom of 3 who just happens to be raising her family on the mission field serving God with her husband in Botswana. She is a Revelation Wellness instructor in Botswana and seeing God change the lives of women. Learn more about her and Kevin at Wild Acacia.