“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2
Eternally optimistic. This is one of the character qualities that I strive for in my own life, so practicing being Joyful this week sounded as easy as pie. I mean, I’m fairly Joyful most of the time, right? It will just be like any other week. As soon as I decided to start this Fruit of the Spirit Challenge, I knew I wanted to use the verse above. I actually hadn’t thought of it in a long time and had to look up the reference, so I was surprised it even came to mind. But then I looked at the verse—really looked at it—I finally understood that it wasn’t saying to just smile and laugh when life goes your way. Actually, quite the opposite! No matter the circumstances, consider all of it a Joy. Everything. Not just the things that would make anyone smile, but be Joyful in all things. I also came to realize that it wasn’t about begrudgingly accepting the circumstances for what they were or appeared to be. No; “Count it all joy” forced me to find the silver-lining in everything, and that’s when this simple challenge got a little more complicated.
Day 1 went by delightful and Joyful, and I figured that was a good sign for the rest of the week. But, almost inevitably, life threw a few curve balls that tried to darken my usually sunny disposition (I’m saying that for dramatic affect; my skin doesn’t actually glow . . . But my pale legs sometimes reflect light back that outshines the sun and knocks planets out of orbit. Wait! We’re getting off track!). But I guess this wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it wasn’t challenging. I’m sorry to say that I probably deserve a C+ on the Joy scale for this week, so I hope the rest of your fared better than I did.
It seemed everywhere I turned, there was something to bring me down a few notches. Even the little things that don’t generally faze me pushed every button I have. Almost the instant this week started, it seemed like my Joy scale flipped upside down, and I admit I wallowed just a tiny. Then last night (the epiphany always seems to occur at the last second!) I was sitting outside reading because I was feeling restless, and suddenly it hit me: Joy is a choice. Sure, it’s easy to be happy when things are going your way. Who wouldn’t be? But what about when life doesn’t seem so great? Count it all Joy, right? I admit that I sort of rolled my eyes when I came to this conclusion, wallowed a moment longer, snapped my book closed, and went inside with a smile on my face. It took a few minutes for the mopiness behind the smile to fade, but the longer I made an effort to be more cheerful, the more I honestly felt Joyful. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I realized I was actually Joyful towards the end of the night. So I guess what I learned is that Joy is all about choice, and also perspective. When the power goes out, kids will make a tent in the living room and roast marshmallows over candles, while their parents freak out about what they’re going to do if the street lights are down when they have to go to work tomorrow because they hate four-way stops. If you look hard enough, and sometimes you have to search very hard, you can find something to smile about, like making a lack of power into an adventure. Sometimes you even have to create your own silver-lining. But that’s the beauty of Joy: It’s always there if you get creative and are willing to find it.