About thirty years ago I read a beautiful allegory called, “Hinds Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard. You know that a book is a good one when it burns an impression in your mind that stays with you for the rest of your life. There is one scene that has stuck with me all these years and I have seen it again in my mind many times. The main character, Much Afraid, is on a journey and in this particular scene she finds herself in a barren land. The ground is dry and brown, with no signs of life. But, Much Afraid comes to an old pipe and looks down to see a lovely, tiny, yellow flower blooming where a drop of water occasionally falls. Much Afraid asks the flower its name and it sweetly exclaims, “Behold, me. I am acceptance with joy.”
Have you ever come upon dry and barren places in your own journey? I have. I’ve been alive for close to fifty years now and I’ve suffered enough to know that not every leg of the journey leads to happy trails. In fact, I hate to be brash, but, sometimes, life sucks. When I was younger and still very optimistic, those moments when my visions of rainbows and sunshine didn’t pan out, were like a punch in the gut. But I have learned that even in the midst of those sucky, painful and gut wrenching moments, just like that tiny flower in the wilderness, I can choose joy.
How can we choose joy in the midst of suffering? I think that in order to have true joy we need to turn our eyes toward heaven and remember that God is good and he knows our suffering. If we choose to abide in him, he will abide with us. (John 15:4). Life isn’t always so great. Sometimes we suffer. We face disappointment. We may make choices that result in unpleasant consequences. In those seasons of life we may not feel happy, but we can choose to put our hope in God and trust that, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Putting our hope in God and abiding in him may not result in giddiness or walking on sunshine, but it can result in something much deeper, which is joy.
I think that we have to guard our joy, because it can be stolen. Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I agree with this statement. Comparison generally doesn’t lead to gratitude. It can lead to discontentedness and even bitterness. Your life might not look like so and so’s, and that’s okay. I wish I was a couple of inches taller, but I never will be. I can compare myself to the tall girls and feel sorry for myself because I have to ask for help to get something off of the shelf, or I can accept that this is the way God made me. We are all different and we all have unique situations in our lives. This is where acceptance with joy comes in to play. Bloom where you are planted and rejoice.
Do not let people steal your joy. Just like life sucks sometimes, so do people. (Me included.) People can be selfish, gossips, know-it-alls, controlling and sometimes just downright mean. Don’t you be a victim! Don’t you let them steal your joy! If they are hurting you, get to a safe place and get help. If they are messing with your mojo, you stand up to them and tell them no. Above all, don’t allow them to continue stealing your joy by holding on to bitterness or unforgiveness. These two things are the biggest thieves of all.
Last but not least, control your thoughts. Don’t dwell on the unpleasant things. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” If you choose to dwell on the good things, this is choosing joy.
I pray for everyone reading this today. I pray that today you will draw near to God, who loves you and longs to abide with you. May he bless you and keep you and give you the strength to choose joy. Amen.