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 alternatives? Over-analyzing drains. Self pity and worry are ugly. The enemy wants cause us to focus on the mental burden of treatment plans and doctor appointments. He busies our minds with symptoms, feelings and test results which drive anxiety.
To experience true joy in the midst of devastating illness, one must know the Source of joy: Jesus Christ.
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 Who who forgives my sins and gives me eternal life.
- I know Who keeps and sustains my life.
- I know Who was in all points tempted, yet didn’t not sin. He did not worry.
- I know the Healer.
- I know my Refuge, Comforter, Peace, Hope and Sanity.
- He is the Lord, Jesus Christ.
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 Jesus 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 life-giving relationship with my Heavenly Father. I trust Him. He’s faithful. He works even within the worst circumstances for my good.
“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 instead, wallowed in pain and pity. There were days I doubted if I’d ever have stamina again. I was scared. I’m human! But, I didn’t stay stuck in the mud. I asked God to help me choose joy. It was my willful decision, but God strengthened me to make it…again and again!
Trust and Obey
There’s an old 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!