“Life is hard,” reads the opening line of Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. We could also add, “And the world isn’t fair.” We learn these 2 lessons at some point. Yet, we can still live abundantly even in the face of hard times. How? 2 simple words. “Choose Joy”
The New Testament apostle and missionary, Paul, wrote, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). 1 Thessalonians 5:16 adds, “Always be joyful.” The 2 words? Choose joy. That’s the instruction of these lifechanging Bible verses.
What Is Joy?
The word joy can be found in the Scriptures 242 times; and when you add the related words rejoice, joyful, and rejoicing, the number swells to 550 instances of joy in the Bible. That’s a lot of joy!
This great Bible word is not an emotional feeling. Nor is joy something you create or work up. Joy does not mean that you were lucky. And joy is more than happiness. The word describes the inner delight that comes to us when we trust God. Joy is the inner experience of hope, delight, gladness, blessedness, and peace that is real in spite of what might be going on around you. Yes, you can experience God’s joy no matter how dreadful your circumstances.
Many people think that God is the great Kill-Joy. Nothing could be a bigger lie. God Himself knows joy, and He wants His people to know joy. Psalm 104:31 speaks of God Himself rejoicing in His creative works. Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God rejoicing over His redeemed people who will be to Him “a joy.
The Bible teaches us to “choose” this joy. It is available to anyone who will believe God’s promises and trust Him. Even more, when you fully believe and trust God, joy finds you. Joy is the result of seeking, knowing, and trusting God.
Two individuals can experience the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust God and to believe that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. The first person’s response is the response of choosing joy.
How Do You Choose Joy?
Joy won’t simply happen to you. Instead, you have to choose joy, and choose joy each day. Here’s how.
- Give your life to Jesus. The Bible teaches that joy is a gift to those who belong to Jesus. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
- Live according to the teaching of the Bible. “The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart” (Psalm 19:8).
- Trust God, not only with your life, but also with your problems, needs, and daily activities. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace was you trust in him” (Romans 15:13).
- Surrender your personal agenda to God’s agenda for you. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
- Be generous. “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2).
John Piper has said, “Sometimes we have to fight for joy.” When life hands us a setback, problem, difficulty or trial we can choose to be miserable, consumed by worry and despair. Or we can choose joy. The choice to rejoice always brings hope.