A few years ago, I’d moved from Phoenix back to Fresno to be closer to friends and church family. Once I moved back, I thought everything would be easy and that I would not struggle.
I was so wrong.
I landed employment at a skilled nursing facility, over fifty miles away from where I lived. The pay was lower, I had client and staff difficulties and the schedule took up my weekends.
I went from having my own place in Phoenix to now having a roommate because I couldn’t afford to live on my own.
With all the difficulties, I found myself questioning the move back to Fresno. I began to realize how much easier I had it back in Phoenix. I felt as if I had made a mistake.
During this time, I was pretty down. My thinking was pretty negative about the whole situation and often I’d come home and just check out. Instead of thriving emotionally, I found myself barely getting by. I believed things would never get better.
One night, while doing dishes, God said, “Alexis, you’ve lost your joy.”
I sighed. “ God, my life has been nothing but hard since I’ve moved back. I can’t seem to find it.”
There was a moment of silence then God said: “Alexis, there is a women’s bible study meeting tonight, just down the street from you. You should go.”
I groaned. “God, the last thing I want to do is be around a bunch of people. How will it help?”
God was silent, but the idea to visit the women’s bible study would not leave. Sighing, I decided to go. I quickly ate dinner, grabbed my bible bag and headed to the study.
I was greeted with open arms and smiles. The women were excited to have a new member join them and the timing was perfect; they’d be starting a new study tonight.
The topic was joy.
I smiled as I suddenly understood why God wanted me there that night.
For the next 8 weeks, we studied Choose Joy by Kay Warren. It’s been several years now, but her definition of joy has always stuck with me:
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things." -Kay Warren
It is now my mantra.
I’ve learned something about joy since then:
Joy is a choice.
When we keep our eyes on God, instead of our circumstances, we can find joy. In Acts 16:16-40, we find Paul and Silas imprisoned after removing a divining spirit from a slave girl who profited her masters with her fortune telling. They were beaten, their clothing was destroyed and they were chained up in prison.
At that time, they did not know if they would be spared or possibly killed.
They did not complain.
They did not lament over their circumstances.
They prayed and worshipped.
Because of this choice and their joy in the Lord, they were supernaturally released from prison and a jailer was converted.
Joy is a powerful thing!
So when you’re in circumstances that are less than ideal, choose joy. The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). God is always with you and He sees your struggle; He’ll help you get through.