Let’s just be honest. We all have bad days. Some of my hardest moments come at the end of a string of days that I have been solo parenting. My husband travels often and the care of our three little girls all under five years old often lands on my shoulders. Feelings of bitterness, entitlement, and frustration sneak up on me and before I know it, the angry monster swallows me whole. I become short tempered with my kids, grumpy, and lacking in compassion.
During one of these hectic weeks, I had a girlfriend surprise me with a gift she had made. She took a mason jar and attached vinyl stickers onto the outside of it that read, “Choose Joy” – two simple words that helped my perspective on life switch gears. I was having a week filled with overflowing pity parties, and yet the sight of her sweet gift on my dinner table stopped me in my tracks and reminded me of how blessed I truly am.
The girls and I sat down to a simple supper, feasting on scrambled eggs, English muffins and smoothies and there at the head of my plate was my cup with those words, “Choose Joy.” It was as if in this very moment, the Lord whispered into my heart, “Daughter of mine, you have a choice. You can see all the good that is around you or you can choose to be embittered. What are you going to do?”
I used my cup as a starting point for our dinnertime conversation. “Girls, what kinds of things bring you the most joy? Let’s take turns sharing.” Our ordinary dinnertime turned into something magical as we all laughed and giggled at our long list of things that make each of us the happiest. My oldest mentioned gifts, the middle girl said funny jokes, and we decided that stickers and scotch tape bring the baby the most joy. From there, I shared with my precious little ones that having lots of things isn’t what true joy is all about.
The fourth chapter in the book of Philippians always aligns my heart with the Lord’s gift of true joy.
God reminds me that joy comes with 3 easy practices.
- A heart filled with thankfulness.
- A heart focused on what is true and real.
- And a heart that is dependent on the Holy Spirit.
You see, Paul told the Philippians that when they are anxious about anything, they simply needed to pray, to talk to God, and “with thanksgiving let their requests be made known to God.” With a heart of thanksgiving, there is no room for the grumps.
Thank you Lord for my amazing scrambled eggs, for food on the table, for three beautiful healthy girls, for a daddy who works so hard so I can be a stay-at-home mom. Thank you, Lord, for this conversation and the giggles of my children.
Paul tells the Philippians to focus on things that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable.” So often when I get embittered, I have made up a slew of lies in my head that I am beginning to believe as true. Lies like, “You never get a break. No one ever helps out around here!” But God reminds us in His Word to think on what is true. I must ask myself, am I believing truth or am I trusting in unreliable emotions? If the latter, then I need some help redirecting my thoughts towards what is pure and lovely and our Savior is right there to help.
“Lord,” I whispered as we cleared the table. “Please help me to see TRUTH! I know I’m doing the dishes yet again, but remind me of how much you love me and how much my husband loves me. Help my mind to focus on the reality that I get to serve my family, and not foolishness that I have made up in my head.”
Finally, Paul tells his audience that the secret of His contentment and satisfaction, no matter what the circumstances are, lies in this key: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
When I am weak, when I am reactionary and dependent on my flesh, when I want to scream because the girls are arguing instead of eating their food, I remind myself to pray. He sees me. He sees all the effort I extend towards my family and His strength is endless. When I am empty and spent, it’s the best time to turn and ask the God of the universe to give me HIS strength to respond in the trying moments.
He promises His peace and He promises us joy. So, though my friend gifted me with a beautiful cup that warmed my soul, my greatest gift is not from material things. My greatest gift does not come when all of life’s events line up perfectly and everyone is getting along. My greatest gift and truest joy comes from knowing Jesus Christ and having a deep dependency on my Savior. Knowing my heavenly best friend sees all, cares about my heart, provides for each of my deepest needs, and loves me through it all…that is true joy.