I remember it like it was yesterday. I walked into church that Sunday morning knowing that the church was going to vote on the future of the pastor- my husband. The betrayal had come as a shock to me which made it even harder to swallow. As the service started, my mind raced with questions and emotions, fear battled with faith. What would we do if they voted us out? Why would they even think of doing such a thing? How can I protect my kids from what’s about to happen? We live in a parsonage! We’re about to be jobless AND homeless! God- where are you!?!
The next thing I knew it was time to lead the congregation in worship. As I stood and looked out over the people we had loved and led for years, the last thing I felt like doing was singing. I wanted to scream and cry and throw things. The ministry we had poured our lives into was falling apart and I had no idea if the people we had come to love would stand with us, vote against us or just leave in the turmoil. But the clock continued to tick, and it was time to worship. I can’t do this, LORD. At that moment God brought to mind James 1:2-4 with a gentle whisper to my soul “Consider this an opportunity for joy, my daughter.”
JOY? Are you serious, Lord? You want me to choose JOY in this moment?
Yes, joy is a choice: often a hard choice. It’s choosing to see the goodness of God in the midst of my circumstances. The rest of my life may be terrible, but God is good. Choosing joy is looking beyond my temporary condition in order to see the big picture of God’s plan. Things may be falling apart now, but this “light and momentary struggle is achieving for me an eternal glory” that far outweighs what I’m going through. (2 Corinthians 4:16) This testing of my faith will produce endurance and character and strength and trust.
God used this trial to point out the areas where my attitude needed to change. Who am I singing for? Am I singing for the attention of the people or the applause of God? In whose strength am I leading? Am I doing ministry in my own strength or fully relying on God to accomplish His work through me? Am I willing to let God shape me and make me stronger by taking me through hard things? Who really holds my future? Am I clinging to control or trusting Him with my life? On that day I learned a great lesson: I can choose joy because His approval is all I need. His strength will carry me through every trial. And looking back I now can testify that joy was the best choice because God truly did have my future in His hands and His plan really is a good one.
Here’s what joy looked like for me on that dark day. I stood on the platform, closed my tear-filled eyes and sang:
Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
And if our God is for us, nothing can stand against us!
That, my friends, is why we can choose joy!
When you look back at the hard times, how has God used them for good in your life now? How can you intentionally choose joy today? Build a foundation of choosing joy in the little moments in your life so that when the crisis hits, you already know what true joy looks like!