joy is not chosen it is grown
PICTURE PERFECT

It was an absolutely beautiful fall morning, my favorite time of the year, and the house was silent…my four boys still sleeping peacefully. The sun was just beginning to rise and it was that serene time of the morning when the day ahead feels full of hope. I sat comfortably, nestled in an overstuffed green chaise with a soft knit blanket over my legs, both hands warm against my favorite mug filled with my morning mocha, Bible open in my lap, and gazing out the grand picture windows that graced the entire back wall of my enormous living room in the largest and most beautiful home I had ever lived in. It was a picture perfect morning.

But my soul was desperately unhappy.

I remember it so vividly because I was particularly struck by the fact that the miserable state of my heart conflicted so painfully with the loveliness of my external surroundings. It was that morning that my heart was abruptly awakened to the reality that my life was markedly absent of joy.

Over the next hour I felt a growing anxiety as the minutes ticked by, ebbing closer to the time that my boys would begin waking one by one and the morning silence would be replaced by the sounds of life in a houseful of four young boys. Bickering, rowdiness, laughter one minute – cries the next. I knew the routine and I felt so inadequate to inspire my children to be kind, loving, obedient and joyful. I was homeschooling at the time, our seventh year, and I found myself in a season of unusual difficulty. There were so many external forces in play that created greater challenges than previous years and on a disturbingly regular basis I found myself sneaking away to my room to cry. Many days I didn’t even bother to sneak away…I just let my raw and angry tears flow in front of my children. My anger wasn’t because of them…quite the opposite; they were where I was finding my happiness. But being responsible for my happiness was a burden my children were never meant to bear – – and a burden their young sinful hearts could not maintain on a daily basis, or even an hourly one. They were only children after all, but there could not have been any doubt in their hearts that their mother was deeply unhappy.

I wish I could tell you a beautiful story of how God used that morning to immediately breathe new purpose into my life. I wish the next chapter told of how I clearly heard Him calling me to sit and linger with Him and to tether my heart to His. I wish the next page told of a dramatic change of heart – – instead it was just the first page of a very long novel with self-loathing, bitterness, anger, and pretending joy as recurring chapter themes. However, there is indeed a happy ending. No…there is, in fact, a joyful ending.

COVETING

I never really struggled with coveting what other people had. Over the years I had many friends with model perfect homes, luxury cars, beautiful faces, fit bodies, expensive clothes, wonderful relationships with their husbands and children, and creative talent that left me speechless. But I never envied them for what they had.

Instead I expended all my envy energy coveting my own life – – not the life I had, but the life I expected to have. Not the life I was blessed with, but the life I thought I deserved.

Somehow I had become unintentionally enslaved by the routine of mindlessly pitting my day-to-day reality up against the picturesque adulthood I had dreamt up prior to marriage and children. Occasionally there was a day that was free enough from challenge and struggle that it could stand toe to toe next to the idol life I had envisioned, but the vast majority of the days paled in comparison and left me feeling covetous, angry, bitter, and defeated.

I was failing at parenting. I was failing my children. I was failing in creating the life I dreamt of for my family. I was failing God.

I was failing at life. Or so I believed.

CHOOSE JOY

There is a popular mantra that you hear so often – – Choose Joy. If you’re on Pinterest or Instagram, you likely come across some depiction of ‘choose joy’ in a beautiful scripted font on a daily basis. You’ll find it mod-podged on wood signs, screen printed on t-shirts, embossed on journals, hand-stamped on jewelry, framed and perfectly placed amidst the most welcoming farmhouse décor…you’ll even find it tattooed on bodies. ‘Choose Joy’ is everywhere…because people desperately want to live a joyful life.

But joy isn’t chosen…it’s grown.

FOOLISHNESS

I spent many, many years after that morning of reckoning trying hard to create a more joyful life.

Over the course of the following four years, I made many choices that were unexpected…and life altering. All with the expectation that they would bring a measure of joy into my life.

I started a new career, a creative and financially successful one. I indulged myself by spending freely on things I felt would make me happy. I lost a lot of weight in order to feel worthy. I bought expensive clothes. I made new friends. I put my children in school…and I ended a marriage that I blamed for much of my unhappiness.

To the believer those choices, or the motives behind them, all resonate as a lack of wisdom – – foolishness.

However, to the world those choices make perfect sense, and are even applauded, when someone is searching for the happiness they ‘deserve’. I had unintentionally surrounded myself with lies from every angle that reinforced what I wanted to believe…that I could create a more joyful life for myself. But joy isn’t created any more than it’s chosen.

choose joy fruit of the spirit the joyful life
ABIDE

It’s taken me many painful years of lessons learned, largely at the expense of my family, to arrive at the simple and beautiful truth about authentic joy.

Joy is a fruit grown naturally on branches that abide in the vine. All we need do is abide in Christ. Nothing more. Just abide.

By literal definition you can read this as:

Remain in Christ.
Continue in Christ.
Stay in Christ.
Dwell in Christ.
Wait in Christ.

We are required only to abide – – and in exchange for abiding, He promises to bear us the fruit of joy.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 ESV

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 ESV

CHOOSE JESUS

A joyful life is not CREATED by ‘choosing joy’ – – a joyful life is GROWN by intentionally choosing Jesus.

Do you long for a joyful life?

_ Choose to trust in God’s ability to make whole, that which is broken, rather than in your own ability to fix.

_ Choose to be content with what you have, rather than longing for more.

_ Choose to see beauty in the ordinary, rather than chasing the idol of perfection or expectation.

_ Choose to lean in to Jesus for the grace to grow, rather than striving in the futile mire of self-sufficiency.

_ Choose to pray, rather than complain.

_ Choose to intentionally seek, rather than aimlessly wander.

_ Choose to wholeheartedly invite Jesus into every area of your life, rather than visiting with Him occasionally.

_ Choose to commune with Christ naturally and freely as your Savior, Brother, and Friend, rather than as a formality or duty. Relationships aren’t built in formality.

_ Choose to abide in Christ with the eager anticipation of growing a joyful life, rather than creating a pretty life with the false expectation of growing a joyful heart.

To my sisters in Christ, my prayer for all of us, as we choose to abide in Christ, is that we be women abundantly blessed by a harvest of sweet joy and that we share it generously with those around us in order to bring glory to Jesus.

Welcome to The Joyful Life.

Encourage other women by sharing this post.

Do you long for a joyful life? The secret to a joyful life is simple - - much more simple than 'choosing joy'. Joy is grown...read more.
Do you long for a joyful life? The secret to a joyful life is simple - - much more simple than 'choosing joy'. Joy is grown...read more.
Do you long for a joyful life? The secret to a joyful life is simple - - much more simple than 'choosing joy'. Joy is grown...read more.

18 comments

  1. I love how you described your struggle with envy. I have never put it into words, but that is exactly how I struggle with it as well. A beautiful piece, thank you for sharing!

    1. It’s probably a fine line for me; I suppose that my struggle with the envy of my own expectations are probably rooted in what I see in other people’s lives, but I don’t ever settle there. It always comes back to my expectations and what I think I *should* have. I’m so glad that God is teaching me contentment…because striving for ‘more’ and ‘better’ always leaves me empty.

  2. Your description of yourself when your children were younger, well that was me when my kids were young. When going through a box of old greeting cards (I keep cards sent by family) a few years ago I came across one my daughter had made for me. She had written “I’m sorry you are sad.”
    It broke my heart to know she had felt my sorrow at such a young age (10), but it also showed me how far the Lord had brought me since that time.
    Looking forward to reading more articles on the blog and the magazine.

    1. How beautiful that finding that card allowed you to reflect on growth. It’s so easy sometimes to get stuck in a regret cycle rather than looking back and finding encouragement in where we’ve grown. I’m so glad to know that others can relate to my struggles.

  3. These truths are so powerful. I am right with you in the struggle to “choose joy” and I have been reading the book One Thousand Gifts and have been learning to grow a spirit of thankfulness and through this have seen my joy increase. It really is a process and thank you for this encouragement!

    1. It is very much a process…much like growing any kind of fruit. There are seasons of planting, pruning, and harvesting…and they all look different. We just need to abide in the process.

  4. So beautiful!
    I also chased joy several years ago; in checking off the actions I thought would make me the best Christian girl I could be. Then a friend at church was diagnosed with breast cancer. I watched her joy radiate in the midst of chemo treatments and losing her hair. Not that it wasn’t tough, but she refused to let it define her. She said one sentence that I will never forget: “Don’t chase joy; chase the joy-Giver.”
    Thank you for this reminder!

    1. What a beautiful example of true joy your friend must have been during that time. I love that God will use our trials to reflect His character when we lay our burdens at His feet. I love her quote! Yes…Chase the Joy Giver!!

  5. I will be thinking about the difference between “choosing” and “growing” joy all day.

    This little spot in the world is beautiful. I’m so glad to be here!

    Thank you for encouraging us to live a joyful life by living one yourself.

    Terri

  6. Sandi, your words are spot on and resonate with a message God’s spoken to my spirit over and over…’Abide’ and then ‘Dwell’ were my words for the year a few years back and their meanings have been rich and oh-so-deep in my soul.
    Sometimes they get buried deep–thank you for this reminder!

    1. Thank you, Jody…I’m so glad that this resonated with you. I’ve never chosen a word for my year, but this year God has continually put a word on my heart, so although we are three months into the year, I am trying to embrace all that surrounds my word – RELATE.

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