Do you find it hard to choose joy each day? Sometimes we don’t feel like choosing joy today because of life’s circumstances. But the Bible is full of people in dire circumstances that accepted them and chose to display the joy of the Lord anyway. Here are some examples and ways that you can purpose in your heart you will choose joy no matter your current circumstances.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NLT
Dancing In The Rain
As I hurried along the city street, the rain was falling heavily. Several people were out and about, but there was little interaction. Everyone was dashing from shop to shop, trying to do what they needed to do and get out of the rain.
But then the music started…
It was a brass band playing on the bandstand, and they were good. Gradually, people began to slow down and look up. Eventually a group, myself included, decided to brave the rain to go and listen.
As the band began to play “Singing in the Rain,” everyone shared a smile, but as we listened, my attention was drawn to an elderly lady in the crowd. Her bright pink raincoat made her stand out in the gloomy greyness of the day, but what really caught my eye was her reaction to the music. It seemed impossible for her to stand still. She began by tapping her foot, then she started swaying from side to side. Eventually she gave into it and, stepping away from the group of people into a space, she began to dance.
A couple nearby were holding a rainbow umbrella. It didn’t seem that she knew them, but she went over and took the umbrella and then began dancing in front of the crowd, twirling the umbrella as she went.
It was a beautiful moment.
While her dancing was nothing spectacular, there was something wonderful about her freedom to express herself with a total disregard for what others were thinking, and her joy was contagious.
As I looked around, the rain continued as before, but now people were smiling and talking and the whole atmosphere had changed, all because some musicians and a little old lady chose joy over gloom.
Paul Chooses Joy
As I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I see that same attitude of choosing joy.
His situation is dire – he’s locked in prison for no crime other than preaching the Gospel, and to make it worse, his enemies are using his situation as an opportunity to get at him. If I imagine myself in Paul’s situation, I expect that I would be downcast and complaining, yet Paul’s letter bubbles over with joy. It makes me wonder: what is his secret? How is he able to find joy even in such circumstances?
As I read his letter, a few things stand out, all of them to do with where he is choosing to focus.
Instead of focusing on himself and his own situation, Paul focuses on the Gospel and on where God is at work. He rejoices in the opportunities he has to talk about his faith with the palace guard, he delights in the boldness with which other believers are speaking out, and, as for those who are preaching with false motives – as long as they are telling people about Jesus, Paul chooses to find joy in that.
Paul Focuses on Eternity
He also chooses to focus on eternity. There are several reminders to the Philippians that they are “citizens of heaven.” Although Paul’s current situation is less than ideal, he chooses to look beyond it to see the bigger picture. God is ultimately in charge and his suffering will not last forever. Surely this too is cause for joy.
Third, instead of turning inwards, he chooses to focus on others. His words to the Philippians are full of encouragement, and he clearly prays for them often. He also writes warmly of others, such as Timothy and Epaphroditus, who are helping to spread the Gospel, and he finds joy in these friendships.
He urges the Philippians to join him in choosing joy by making the decision about where to focus and he shares advice he is clearly living out: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT)
We Can Choose Joy, Our Attitude, and Focus
We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude and our focus. We can choose, like Paul, to rejoice in the Lord – not necessarily to be joyful about our circumstances, but to find joy in God whatever our circumstances.
And when we choose that attitude, like Paul, and like the lady dancing in the rain, it can impact others and bring joy to them too.
Where is your focus today?
How can you choose to focus on what is excellent and worthy of praise?
How can a focus on the Gospel, on eternity, and on other people lead you to find and choose joy in God today?