Choosing Joy

A confession: I don’t always choose joy. Oh sure, I’m subject to bursts of happiness and I certainly have experienced much joy in my life.  I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a pessimist. I think it’s just that I’m of a more serious nature and my first response to most things is to think them through – rather than just recognize and receive joy spontaneously.

Over the past 9 months our Bible study trekked through the Psalms of Ascent (120-134). For our wrap-up, we were asked to consider how God had challenged us. As I looked back through the notes I’d jotted down in my Bible, one word leaped out at me: joy. It was one of those “no, you’re not really saying that, God” moments. But listening over the next few days it was pretty clear God was revealing something to me.

Fast forward a few weeks and I just finished reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henry Nouwen. A truly wonderful book that describes his journey of reflection after encountering the famous painting by Rembrandt. I resolved to finish it this afternoon before my nap. Why was I surprised that the next to last chapter focused on the celebration of the Father and the invitation to joy? God has perfect timing, don’t you think! Some great quotes:

  • The reward of choosing joy is joy itself.
  • People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness.
  • Increasingly I discover that every choice for joy in turn reveals more joy and offers more reason to make life a true celebration in the house of the Father.
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

As a little reminder of my decision to choose joy, I’ve started carrying around a small stone with me . . . a smooth white stone of the sort my gram and I used to seek out and collect when I was a child. I’m calling it my joy rock. So far it hasn’t ended up in the laundry and that’s a good thing! The connection with my gram and the stone, as well as the painting, (she was a painter and a student of the work of masters such as Rembrandt) reminds me that in every situation, I want to choose joy. I want to recognize and receive it when it comes my way, and I want my life to be infused with it so it overflows to others.


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