Is it realistic to think we can experience a joy-filled life? What is joy anyway?
Life is hard and often not fair. Forrest Gump likened it to a “box of chocolates.” I like to think of it as a wild roller coaster ride. Depending on how you look at it that ride can be filled with terror or with joy.
When I was 8 or 9 years old, my mother took me on my first roller coaster ride. It was an old wood coaster called The Comet, at a nearby amusement park.
Now the first thing you need to know about my mom is that she was a die-hard coaster enthusiast. She was unflinching in her belief that if you didn’t ride in the first car, there was no use riding at all.
So we climbed into the first car. It was exciting, and I couldn’t wait to get started.
Keep in mind back then the safety features on coasters differed greatly from today. There was a bar on the front of the car you had to reach forward to grasp. There was also a chain. The kind used on swings. It clipped to the side of the car with the type of clasp used on a dog leash. It lay loose (and I mean completely limp) across our laps.
The coaster started its way up the steep first hill in a slow, methodical way. As we crested the top of the hill, I remember thinking this isn’t scary at all.
Then we started down. Wow, did things ever change in a hurry. Gravity and Newtons laws of motion and all that good stuff kicked in. I came up out of my seat. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get my rear back down on the seat as long as we were going down that first hill.
I just knew that I was going to plummet out of that car and fall to my death. I began to scream at the top of my lungs, “Get me off of here, get me off of here!” It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.
I looked over to my mother for comfort and help. Shocked to find her laughing her head off. For all the terror I was experiencing she was experiencing unbridled joy.
How can two people engaged in the same experience have two polar opposite reactions?
Just like a roller coaster, life is full of ups and downs, unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes it even turns you upside down. The good mixed with the bad. We all experience both. No one is exempt. But we all have a choice. We can choose joy regardless of what life brings our way.
We often equate joy with happiness, but they are not the same. Happiness, like fear, is an emotion dependent on our circumstances. Joy is a heartfelt foundation – a state of mind.
I love the way Margaret Feinberg puts it. She believes, “… joy emanates from the abiding sense of God’s fierce love for us.”
God’s Word tells us in Nehemiah 8:10 that the joy of the Lord is our strength. That means that when the roller coaster rockets toward the bottom, we can stay on an even keel.
Unfortunately, most of us choose to focus on our circumstances, struggling to change them. Rather than fix our thoughts on Jesus, trusting our circumstances to Him.
When we embrace joy, we are embracing the reality that we are His beloved children. We find our identity in Him.
Jesus says in John 15:11(MSG); ‘I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.”
We can choose to travel a path of joy each day regardless of our circumstances if we trust Him. When our confidence is in Jesus, we know He is with us no matter what we are facing. Rest assured, He has great plans for us in spite of what is happening right now.
“You have hundreds of problems and millions of blessings!” – Tommy Newberry
Life is a wild ride. But we have a choice how we experience it. It’s all a matter of perspective. We can count our blessings or complain about what is wrong in our life.
Don’t buy into the myth that joy only happens in good times or is the byproduct of positive experiences. Let God’s fierce love for you nudge you to the joy-filled life you were created to live.
By the way, you might think after my experience on my first roller coaster ride it was my last. Well, you would be wrong. Like my mother, I became a lifelong, die-hard coaster lover. Always riding in the first car, laughing all the way.
Who wants to join me on a joyride?
What is keeping you from living a joy-filled life?
This post first appeared on April18, 2017