Choosing Joy

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

Do you remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? He was one of my favorite characters from the Hundred Acre Wood world, even though I felt bad for him. I thought I could cheer him up and show him how to be happy. If you watched Winnie the Pooh often, you might remember that he and Tigger became close friends. Complete opposites, but they learned how to accept each other. But Tigger’s optimism still didn’t rub off on Eeyore.

It’s interesting to think about that considering our relationships and the surrounding people. Some are naturally more optimistic about life, while others are not. And what’s even more interesting is that even though we have natural tendencies and predispositions within our personality, a lot of the times our attitudes are a choice.

Joy is a choice

For example, the book of joy in the Bible is Philippians. Apostle Paul wrote this letter when he was in jail, one of his lowest moments. Yet, throughout this letter, he exhorts the Philippians to choose joy, to fix their thoughts on what is true, honorable, righteous, and so on, and to rejoice always. Therefore, Paul said, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He wasn’t avoiding the fact that he was in jail, but choosing to stay content because Christ gave him the strength to do so.

This staple-Christian verse often gets misconstrued, when in context, it means that no matter what happens in life, you can remain content in all situations with Christ’s strength. It’s a choice to fix your thoughts on what’s true, to rejoice, and to believe in your heart that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. I find this to be true as I get older and face more trials. Something that helps me make this choice is to think of verses or phrases that bring life.

Verses like Philippians 4:8, Proverbs 17:22, and Psalm 37:4 have helped me turn my focus from my problem to praising God. Phrases like, “look around, life is good,” or “it’s part of the adventure” help me look at what is already good and how life has been and continues to be such an adventure.

Personally, I’ve been dealing with all kinds of skin issues this year. There were so many times where I woke up and got immediately discouraged and upset. I’d think, when will this end? I’m so sick of this. I hate this. I don’t want this. What did I do wrong? And so on. But recently, as I woke up discouraged and thought these thoughts, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, enough, a joyful heart is good medicine, choose joy and be well in Jesus’ name. And within moments, my focus shifted so much that I forgot the irritations on my body.

It’s not that I’m avoiding pain and being irresponsible, but changing my attitude as I take care of the problem with God. I recently heard someone say, “don’t look to your emotions or symptoms for encouragement, look to the word of God!” We often let our emotions and physical symptoms dictate and lead our attitudes, when we need to remind ourselves, our souls, to turn to God and His truth. (The person who said this battled stage 4 cancer and won – what a testimony!).

What will you choose?

Our choice to adjust our attitudes might not affect others immediately, they might not even see it right away, but I believe if you make it part of your lifestyle, it will eventually overflow into all the areas of your life and inspire those around you. Laughter, happiness, and joy are contagious, but so are the opposite of these. Which will you choose for yourself and those around you?

Now, I don’t think being pessimistic and negative is wrong or bad. On the contrary, it’s part of our nature. We need it to determine what’s positive and negative, what’s risky and safe, to see different perspectives, etc. But to be in a constant state of negativity when any hardship comes up will eventually depress you. Not just emotionally and mentally, but physically as well. It will hurt your overall health and wellbeing, your energy, and ability to focus. Not only that, but it will hurt your confidence and your relationships.

You can get upset, feel sad, and get angry, all of which is normal, but it’s important to move forward from those feelings. Because that’s all that they are: feelings. And though it’s part of God’s creation in us, we’re still called to steward them and not sin because of them (Ephesians 4:26).

Tigger’s optimistic personality didn’t rub off on Eeyore, and often that’s how it is in our relationships. But beyond this fictional story and imagined characters, God’s supernatural joy is available to all of us. It is a fruit of the Spirit which blossoms when we walk in step with Him. It is within our new nature as new creations in Christ Jesus!!!

We must choose joy despite what we face, so that, at the least, it could be medicine for our physical body, our emotions, mentality, and spirit.

Will you choose it?

Here are some Bible verses about joy to encourage you:

  1. Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
  2. Psalm 4:7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
  3. Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.
  4. Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
  5. Psalm 30:5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
  6. Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
  7. Proverbs 10:28 The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
  8. Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
  9. John 16:22, 24 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
  10. John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
  11. Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  12. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  13. Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
  14. Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
  15. Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice.
  16. James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

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