Life is full of choices.
Coffee or tea?
Black socks or blue socks?
Toll roads or back roads?
But, it’s the the stuff we don’t get to choose that causes problems: circumstances
Sometimes they are the result of our choices and sometimes they’re handed to us without our consent. Nonetheless, we still have a choice. We can choose our response. How we respond to circumstances will make all the difference in whether we wallow in misery or live a fulfilled and prosperous life.
It’s hard, though. Circumstances can knock the wind out of you–just ask anyone who’s suffered a loss–the loss of a loved one, loss of an opportunity, loss of physical or mental wholeness–circumstances can make you feel as though there is no such thing as choice. Stuff happens and we are the victim of it–helpless, hopeless and without agency.
Yet, it is in those moments of our greatest defeat that we must resist the urge to lay down. We must choose joy.
The one thing that makes us human is the power that God gave us in the very beginning. It is the only power that still remains. Although we lost our ability to commune with Him face to face, lost immortality and lost access to paradise–the one thing that we retained was the power to choose! And it is this power that can lead us back to everything that we lost. We can choose:
- to focus on what’s left. What remains?
- to look at what we can do, rather than what we can’t
- to look at what we have, rather than what we don’t
And by doing so, we will find joy, which is different from happiness. Happiness is a temporary feeling, a fleeting emotion. Joy is an acceptance of circumstances and a choice to be content anyway. We must resist the urge to give up, as tempting as it is.
Even if our choices are reduced, diminished or shifted, they are never absent because the choices that we seek are not out there, but in here–inside of us. The crucial question is: What is it that I need to do to change my perspective on these circumstances? That is what will make all the difference.
I can speak on this topic because I am personally challenged by some tough choices and circumstances, and it’s difficult to know the right way to go. Although the cloud of failure is ever looming overhead and uncertainty swirls all around, I must decide which way to go.
My daughter, the artist, decided to paint this cover photo for me, and in the wisdom of a child she has captured beautifully this moment, this point where I must decide. Of course, one small problem with her rendering is that it assumes “my way” will take me in the opposite direction of “God’s way,” which, I hope is not the case. But whatever my decision, I know I must choose wisely and I must choose joy. I would advise you to do the same.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13