Even in my struggles, I choose joy!
A few years ago, I faced a life-threatening case of C. Difficile. C. Diff is a bacterial infection of the GI tract that, in my case, resulted from a properly prescribed and properly taken antibiotic. Certain antibiotics are well known for causing C. Diff. While the acute infection is resolved, I feel the consequences of it daily in my body.
Psalm 34 sustained me through dark hospital nights and the months of lonely quarantine that followed at home. I’d ask people to read it aloud to me in the hospital. This passage sustains me present day, as well.
Psalm 34 has many action verbs. King David, the author, said, “I will. I shall. I sought. Listen. Fear the Lord. Keep. Depart from evil.” In my recovery, joy and thanksgiving became willful, active decisions. After all, how healthy and productive are the Bible’s alternatives? Self pity and worry are ugly. They produce dis-ease and function like super glue by binding us to our past.
To overcome, one must have knowledge of all the ways the enemy works against us when we’re sick. He pushes us to fix ourselves, to “do” and “be,” to strive, feel mentally burdened by treatment plans (especially for those like me who are trained in healthcare)…
Rearranging the answer
A friend, experiencing her own health battles, asked me an astute question. “How do you choose joy?” How. She really got me thinking with that one word. How. How did I – how do I – choose joy? I believe the answer lies not in answering, “HOW,” but rearranging the letters of that word to, “WHO?”
- I know in Whom I have believed.
- I know in Whom I stake my life.
- I know Who keeps and sustains me.
- I know Who walked the road to Calvary in my stead.
- I know the Healer.
- I know my Refuge, Comforter, Peace, Hope and Sanity.
- He is my Heavenly Father.
Because I know WHO, I can choose HOW to respond in trying seasons. Relationship makes all the difference in the WHO and HOW. If I did not know my Father and His love, I’d be left to my own intellect to find joy. In short, I’d be lost. I am human and I do not enjoy sickness or discomfort. But I have a sweet relationship – not a legalistic religion – but a sweet relationship with my Heavenly Father whom I love and want to honor. I trust Him. He’s faithful to me. I know He works even the worst circumstances for my good. How? Because He has done so for me many, many times. Because of WHO He is.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 KJV
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12 KJV
And so, my exhortation to willfully choose joy is not a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality or even the New Age, humanistic position of “what you think about, you bring about.” Rather, it’s a decision to choose to obey God and, subsequently, receive His type of joy that isn’t dictated by circumstances. There were times I didn’t feel joyful and I really wanted to wallow in pain and pity. But, I asked God to help me choose joy. It was my willful decision, but God will strengthened me to make it…again and again!
Also, Psalm 22 tells us God inhabits the praises of His people. When I was diseased, I wanted God near me and inhabiting my world, inhabiting every system, cell, tissue and organ of my body. As a result, I praised Him!
“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3 KJV
Trust and Obey
There’s an old Baptist hymn, written in 1887 by John Sammis, with these lyrics:
But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay; For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows, are for them who will trust and obey. Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
As forgiveness and love are decisions, so is joy. Praising quickly changed my attitude when I was ill and it still changes my attitude today. If! (There’s that contingent word). If I choose it. If I choose joy, the joyful feelings follow. The enemy hates hearing God’s praises come out of our mouths and that makes me want to praise the Lord all the more! There is always something for which to be grateful! And, how can you be a sour faced, grateful person? Kinda hard, they oppose one another! The gratitude quickly turns to joy!
Even in my struggles, I choose joy!