Tag Archives: in Christ

Can Joy be a Choice?

“Joy does not simple happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep on choosing it every day.”  Henri Nouwen


A few months ago I crowded in a chapel attending the funeral of a little girl named Violet. Violet died during her birth, the first child of Joseph and Judy.

Many wore violet articles of clothes to the service, honoring her life and her parent’s courage. Though Violet’s life was short, she impacted us all.

After the service, we were all given violet helium balloons to release on cue. When we did, the sky was filled with floating circles of purple, growing smaller and smaller as they drifted to the heavens; a salute to violet’s life and a message of love to her from us all.

As inspirational as the balloons were, what hit me most was Violet’s parent’s response. We learned from the eulogy that in the midst of incalculable sadness and grief, Joseph and Judy were choosing joy.

 Choosing Joy?

As I ponder Joseph and Judy’s resolve, I wonder how it’s possible to choose joy just days after her death.

How could this really be true? Isn’t joy supposed to be something good? Seeing the pain on Judy and Joseph’s face, I’m conflicted.

Paul’s command in I Thessalonians 5:16 comes to mind, one of the shortest verses in the Bible: “Rejoice always;”

The word ‘rejoice’ is from the old French word ‘rejoiur’, which means full of joy.

I’m to be full of joy even when my circumstances are difficult. I’m to rejoice always. But this is extreme. An only child is dead. Are we to be full of joy even then? My heart fights this notion.

What makes choosing joy possible?

In another place I read “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Be full of joy in the Lord.

God is joy. He is the source of joy, it exudes from Him. “In your presence is fullness of Joy.” Psalm 16:11b

Choosing joy is choosing God in the midst of anything and everything I’m going through.

As children of God, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, including being sealed in Christ with the promised Holy Spirit. [1]

We are in Christ and He is in us. See also Galatians 2:20a  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me;”

Joy, true joy, is found in our nearness to Christ and His nearness to us.

Joy is eternal, unaffected by the circumstances of our lives. Joy is God himself.

Judy and Joseph love Violet so much. Their whole world was flipped upside down on the day she was born. Months of anticipation and excitement were at once turned to horror and indescribable sadness. Yet through it all, when hearts were crumbling, they clung to each other and choose God’s nearness. They choose to find their comfort in God. They choose joy.

“In your presence is fullness of joy.” 

Challenge:  What circumstance is zapping your joy right now? No matter how difficult your situation is, choose at this moment to rejoice in God’s nearness. In spite of all, choose God, choose joy.

Lord, thank you that in all I go through, you never leave me. Indeed you are closer than breath. You are my joy. Help me continually choose you. Amen

[1] Ephesians 1:3-13


Finding a Friend in Need

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mathew 5:3

 Being in need is not a bad thing. In fact it’s essential to our spiritual journey.

Robbie is my friend. I met him a few years ago at a men’s conference at Myrtle Beach. After the conference was over, I discovered he was homeless.  This was very humbling for me to find out.

Over the years, Robbie has attended our small group and our church. We’ve meet his niece and he has become very dear to us.

He’s had a stable place to live a few times, but he mostly rotates between  the Oliver Gospel Mission and an abandoned building  he calls the ‘Camp site’. He gets work when he can.

For all he’s going through, I’ve never heard him complain.

We communicate mostly through facebook messaging when he’s at the library, or when he can find a WIFI hot spot for his track phone.

One afternoon, a few months ago,  we agreed to hang out for a while. I picked him up at the library and we went to Lizard’s Thicket, a local restaurant.

“Order whatever you want Robbie,” I said as I slid in the booth across from him.

“You’re not getting anything?” he asked.

“No, I’ve already eaten.”

Robbie closed up the menu. Even though he hadn’t eaten since an early morning breakfast at the mission, he thought it impolite to eat in front of me.

“Alright, I’ll get some fried okra,” I agreed.

Robbie grinned and opened the menu back up.

Later, as we were eating, I asked Robbie how his day was going. “It’s a beautiful day and I’m sitting here eating fried chick and okra with you, how could it not be a great day?” he chuckled.

“Do they let you keep your stuff at the mission?” I asked, as I forked a couple of okra.

“Not really,” he replied.

“So where do you keep your things?”

“I have a few  clothes at the campsite, but  my stuff’s in a  book bag in your back seat.”

Wow! Most of Robbie’s earthly possessions were in my back seat. This was  inconceivable to me. My friend was acutely aware of his need in a way I’d never experienced.

Being in need is actually something I’ve avoided; partly because of pride, but mostly because of the vulnerability of having to depend on someone else.

Spiritually speaking, being needy is an absolute necessity. I can’t earn my way to heaven. I need the death and sacrifice of Jesus to blot out my sins and grant me access to heaven. But I also need Him moment by moment as I seek to live a Christ-like life.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poor in spirit means embracing our spiritual poverty. We must know we need Jesus.

Not only do we need the death of Jesus to be acceptable to a holy God, but we need to depend upon the life of Jesus in us to live moment by moment. There’s only one person who can live a true Christ-like life and it’s not us, it’s Jesus in us.[1] The Sermon on the Mount teaches us this.

The word “saved”, used in Romans 5:8-10, not only means delivered (as in rescued from eternal separation from God), but it also means to be healed and made whole. We are to continually embrace  our need of Jesus, knowing that apart from Him we can do nothing. [1]

Challenge: Think about an area of your life you’re still trying to live in  your own abilities. Take a moment and embrace your need for Jesus in this area.  Hand’s open, surrender it  to Him.

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Lord, I’m sorry for the times I haven’t fully trusted you and tried to live on my own. I need you desperately. Please show me when I forget my great need for you.

By the way. today is Robbie’s birthday. If you know him, wish him a happy one. He is a blessing to many.

[1] John 15:5