Choosing joy.

[I began writing this post in February and left it in my drafts. But I’m revisiting it and sharing it with you now! Lucky you.]

This year — 2014 — was supposed to be an amazing year. I know because I decided last year in December. 2013 ended rather poorly, but I was filled with motivation as we rolled over into the next year. I was convinced that every moment of my final semester of college was going to be flawless and thrilling, and that nothing was going to hold me back from living my life to the fullest!

Boom. Then life kicked in.

The first week of the year was all right. The second week was passable. Then the semester started, legal issues came up, friends didn’t come through, and a million little things went wrong until I was either hopelessly alone or on the phone with a sheriff at any given time. And progressively, each week got worse and worse until January was over, and when I looked back, I saw that the entire month was simply miserable.

What happened? I asked myself. This isn’t my awesome, adventurous semester! I was ending most days in tears and spending all my free time dealing with issues that came up. Despite my energetic start out the gate as the school year began, obstacle after obstacle jumped into my way, and it became hard to keep up with even the small assignments that I needed to accomplish.

Life doesn’t like to happen how we plan it. I guess that’s because God has higher ways than we do, or something like that. All the same, I don’t like it when life is difficult — no one does. But what I’m finding out is that it does not have to define me or control me. Whether I completely ruin an assignment at work or I simply get discouraged about the future, I let life steal my joy far too often.

But my joy shouldn’t be available to steal, because my source of joy is unchanging and infinite. For heaven’s sake, Paul was imprisoned and persecuted almost relentlessly during his Christian ministry, but he penned books like Philippians, in which he encourages us to rejoice in the Lord. The Lord, mind you, who is unchanging and eternally faithful. We have reason to rejoice because we have eternal life, and because this life is made to be enjoyed! In His presence, there is fullness of joy, according to Psalm 16.

So yeah, life often doesn’t go how we planned it. Trust me. I’ve faced giants that have threatened to — and often succeeded to — steal my joy. But when we place our trust in the Lord of the whole universe, even when we find ourselves at rock bottom, there is no need for us to lose our joy. Often, it must be a conscious choice. But it’s a choice worth making.

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