Choosing JoyBy Laura White
December 15, 2020
The quiet of an early morning beckons me to spend time in God’s Word. Soon the rooms will be filled with the noise, both good and bad, of five kids starting their school day over distance learning. But for now – it’s my time with God. Every morning as I turn on the Christmas lights, the room glows with that particular, familiar light of the holidays. My heart swells and I take the final step toward my favorite chair where my Bible awaits me. Then my gaze is caught by another glow. The beautiful eastern sunrise begins to flood through the back glass door revealing a thousand smudges, handprints, dog paw smears, and perhaps a bit of food glowing in the morning light. This back door is cleaned regularly. Still, there are those prints, again and again, reminding me of the passing in and out, the calls for “Mom!!” from the back door, the adorably crazy dogs we have, and the general life and love of our home. There have been days when I see them glowing as I make my morning cup of coffee and grumble at their presence. After all – “Can’t those kids keep anything nice in this house?”, or, “How many times I have told them!” And instantly, my heart pulls. My day begins off-foot.
It’s not about those handprints and smudges in particular. It’s about how my heart sees things that are messy and a result of life lived around me. The messy that interrupts the beauty. In those moments I can either choose joy or mark a demerit on my mental scorecard. In the church, there is never a shortage of smudges that appear. These range from phone calls that take my husband away at a family dinner to a grace that is given out in difficult relationships but not returned. How will my heart respond when the unloveliness of life interrupts what I estimate to be the expectations of my day? How will I wisely prepare myself and open my hands for what God lovingly and sovereignly allows in ministry? This life of going and coming through the doors of our church is messy too. We all leave our own handprints, smudges, and ick as we pass.
“For the Joy Set Before Him…”
As with any other area of my life, what will best prepare and minister to my heart is to sit down in that favorite chair and open God’s Word. Only His words of life will speak the wisdom my heart needs. There we see the joy God asks for in obedience in verses like Philippians 4:4 when Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” This is further illustrated with Christ’s own example of choosing joy in Hebrews 12:2, where we are called to look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Even our hardest, messiest days pale in comparison to the suffering that our Savior endured on our behalf. Yet Jesus approached pain and suffering with a heart so fully given to what God ordained that it was called a joy set before Him! His joy and my joy aren’t intended to be in spite of the messiness. We have been given an opportunity to walk in His footsteps as we look knowingly at the messiness and the pain. In doing so we will see true fingerprints of the One giving it to us. Then, just as Jesus did, we can trust a good Father and choose to walk forward in worship with a heart set on joy.
Prepared to Choose Joy
With this righted perspective, I see those smudges and imperfections—both on my morning back door and in the life of our church—as an opportunity to choose joy. By God’s kind blessing, life has happened here. People have passed through close enough to leave an imprint. I have the joy of a full home and of a door that opens and closes as children with good health play lacrosse in my backyard. We have been given even the ability to buy the food that at times is smudged across the glass, and those crazy dogs bring sweet companionship to our home. At church, I can see that dinner disruption as an opportunity where my husband’s time and biblical counsel is wisely invested in a crisis. I can see that a difficult season of personal relationships gives me deeper compassion and new ways to pour into women.
Will those messy moments continue? Yes. But if joy is His own fruit, if it’s in His own example and commanded as worship back to Him, then I will choose to take joy in the smudges. I will be thankful as I clean my back door again each morning that His mercies are new each day. His mercies allow me the ability to choose joy anew. We only get this one life. As the dirt and handprints glow again in the warm eastern light, I will choose joy.
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