A few weeks ago my friend posed this question on Facebook: “Is anyone ever truly 100 percent happy where they’re at, in the season that they’re in, without struggle? I feel like we go from seasons of challenges and struggles, to MORE (but different) challenges and struggles. It truly steals my joy some days, and it’s so STINKIN’ annoying! Happiness is a choice, I know. I just wish it wasn’t such a struggle some days! Finances, health, work, car repairs, kids, house, relationships, bills, taxes, debt, exercise, weight, marriage, and the list goes on.” She was having a bad day. Who can relate?
I didn’t respond to her question that day because I wanted to take the time to consider if there had ever been a “happy season” in my life, one where everything was “just right” all the time. Let’s see, it wasn’t in high school, that’s for sure. The first year of college wasn’t too bad, except for the studying part and missing my boyfriend back home (the one I broke up with just a few short weeks after returning for summer break.) Then, of course, I met a guy named John, to whom I got engaged and shortly thereafter, married. That was a good time but not completely without trials.
As I made my way through “life” in my mind, I kept thinking of the different seasons. Getting pregnant after losing our first baby was super exciting – until I started throwing up. And of course, from the time of the first child’s birth until the last one leaves home there is a whole series of happy, trying, proud, and exasperating moments. Then come the “empty nest” years, which I’ve heard one speaker describe as “The Promised Land.” Yes, there are certainly some great moments in these years as well, until a devastating diagnosis shows up.
So, as I thought about my friend’s question it came to me; it’s not the devastating diagnoses, the sad good-byes as children leave home one after another, the trials of parenting, or any of the tough moments in life that seem to keep “happiness” at bay. It’s this, found in Ecclesiastes 3:11b: “He (God) has also set eternity in the human heart.” WE AREN’T HOME! As I was writing this article the song “Blessings” came on the radio and when I heard this line I thought it summed up my thoughts exactly, “What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?” That thirst is for heaven.
God has promised those who know him an abundant life (John 10:10) but not a life free of trials (John 16:33). That comes in the next life. But like my friend said, on this day we get to choose if we want to allow the trials of this life to bring us down or if we want to choose joy. And I choose joy – because it’s way more fun than being miserable.
Last fall my husband was diagnosed with a treatable but incurable cancer. Of course there have been plenty of days that weren’t much fun but overall, I’ve decided to choose joy. In fact, on the days when I’m feeling especially blessed and happy I fear others might be looking at me thinking, “Is she crazy? Doesn’t she know she should be depressed? Does she even love her husband?” Let me assure you: yes, I love my husband, and I’m neither crazy nor depressed. It’s just that I’m not fond of the pity pit. It’s gloomy and dark in there. So, I choose joy.
I’m not sure what the difference is between joyful and happy but I’m pretty sure that the more you choose joy, the happier you’ll be. The final words of my friend’s Facebook post were, “The only thing that never fails is the love of Jesus. Still blessed.” She’s a smart girl. She knows that Jesus is the One who makes it possible to choose joy even in the tough times. He’s our refuge, our strength, our mighty deliverer, our fortress, and the reason for our hope.
If you are carrying around a heavy burden of trials today why not lay them at the feet of Jesus and ask him to help you see the joy in this day?