Christianity / joy / praise / thanksgiving

Joy is a Choice–so why is it such a battle?


A couple weeks ago my kids went to Vacation Bible School. I walk into the church to greet my kids after their first day of VBS, and I can immediately tell they have had the time of their lives. We go home, but they can’t stop talking about it so they decide to invite some neighborhood friends to come to VBS with them for the rest of the week.

The next morning we arrive, friends in tow. My son’s heart is bursting with delight and expectation.

We sign up our little friends, but they get put in a different group than my kids. I knew this would be disappointing, but with over 500 kids in attendance, I had a hunch it would be tough to fit our friends into the same group.

I look at my son. His heart once swollen with joy is now deflated with disappointment. With tears welling up in his eyes and lips quivering he says, “Mom, I want to go home.”

I put my arms around him and whisper in his ear, “I understand how you feel, but sometimes things don’t work out how we plan. You had your hopes up, but don’t worry, it’s going to be okay. The day isn’t ruined. You’re going to have a wonderful time.” I feel his little body shaking to hold back tears.

I lean in to him and pray into his ear that Jesus would be his joy today.

I’m flooded with my own emotions now. I’ve been in his shoes.

I know all too well the struggle raging in his soul this morning. In the last 15 months, my husband and I have faced more disappointment and discouragement than I ever would have imagined. Plans failed, dreams were crushed, faith was tested, and the fight for joy at times has felt like an epic battle raging in my heart.

I also know well that joy is a choice, so why can it be so hard?

I’ve been the exhausted mom at home with three young kids. I’ve had those ugly moments where I’ve erupted in frustration instead responding joyfully calm. I know the battle–it’s been waged in my own soul. I want joy, but I struggle to grab hold of it.

And I’m not alone. I’ve grieved with parents who have lost a child. I’ve cried with women whose marriages have been lost to infidelity. I’ve stood with brokenhearted mothers as they’ve cried tears of anguish over children that have rebelled beyond recognition.

I can hear the cry of the brokenhearted saying, “What then? How do we choose joy in the middle of THIS?”

We grieve, we cry, and then we fight. We wage the war against our own soul and fight for joy with praise and thanksgiving. Bringing praise in the middle of painful circumstance, in the night season of our lives, can almost feel like a sacrifice beyond the capacity of our soul. When our heart drowns under pain and sorrow, frustration or worry, we bring it to the foot of the cross in surrender, lay it all down at His feet, and offer it as a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15), a sacrifice of joy (Psalm 27:6). We lift our hands and voices and verbally declare the goodness of God over our lives and our circumstance.

When we thank God for all He has done and all He is going to do, we break the power of circumstance to dictate the direction our soul will take and we allow Jesus and His joy to rule and reign over us from the inside out. 

He fills us with joy that overflows from the inside and strengthens us. This sacrifice is holy to God, honored by Him. He sees straight to the heart and His joy is our strength. (Neh. 8:10)

This is not the end. God is faithful and He will bless you in the middle of your present circumstance. Joy comes in that place of surrender, that place where we wake up to the blessing that God has poured out over us in the midst of our trial. We offer that sacrifice in the middle of the dark, night season of our lives, and His promise is that joy will come in the morning. We thank Him, we count our blessings, we wait in hopeful expectation for Him. He won the battle for our joy at the Cross. He has triumphed, and so will we.

I pick up my son that day. I ask him how it went. With a full heart he declares, “You were right, Mom. It didn’t start like I had hoped, but it ended better than I planned. I made new friends and I had one of the best days of my life. Thanks for praying for me.”

My heart swells with gratitude. Joy is here.

I pray this today, Psalm 30, over myself, over you, over us, that joy will fill you today in this new day, this morning season of your life and mine.

I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
3 You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.

4 Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

6 When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
7 Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

8 I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

This post is featured today at as a part of my friend Wendie’s Stringing Pearls Ministry summer Bible study series on Joy. She is a mom, author of several books and a speaker. Her ministry is amazing. I love reading her blog and following her ministry. I know it will be an encouragement for you today. Be sure to stop by her blog!


38 thoughts on “Joy is a Choice–so why is it such a battle?

  1. I love that you also wrote about Joy today (esp the choice of joy) this is definitely not a coincidence! I’ve learnt that God speaks through confirmations and this was one for me today! Thanks for the post!!

  2. Pingback: Joy is a Choice–so why is it such a battle? | Bay Area Momma

  3. Pingback: Reblog: Joy is a Choice–so why is it such a battle? | godschick | your mess, His Message

  4. Very good post! Like you, I have become convinced that thanking and praising God (especially when we don’t feel like doing so) results in an inner peace and joy. It seems as if worship and thanksgiving is for our benefit.

  5. Thanks for liking my blog. I’m a newbie. Great quote: When we thank God for all He has done and all He is going to do, we break the power of circumstance to dictate the direction our soul will take and we allow Jesus and His joy to rule and reign over us from the inside out. As a preacher was told when his wife was diagnosed with cancer – Praise God anyway.

    • Was your wife diagnosed with cancer? If so, I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to you. Painful. Glad you liked the post and that quote. That’s great that you’re getting started on your blog! I look forward to reading more. Blessings to you!

  6. After losing our baby at 13 weeks the other month and haemeraging during the miscarriage which resulted in blood transfusions and a hospital stay – I have really been trying to make the decision to choose joy. And what I have found is that when I choose to be joyful despite my circumstances – God shows up and helps me through – he really is our joy unspeakable!

    • I’m choked up a bit…so sorry. What you’re walking through is really where the rubber meets the road….if you can choose joy through this you can choose it through anything. My heart aches for you right now. Grace grace and you are an inspiration to many women.

    • Hey there, well, I think what I mean by that is just that I’ve always had a heart for the mission field. I grew up thinking I would raise my kids on the mission field somewhere in a Third World country. I am not there currently, but dream about it all the time….and I’m trying to be a good steward of the current “mission field” The Lord has me in ( my family and my city). I love that question…thanks for the interest. Did it answer the question? I checked out your blog just now….didn’t see an about page, but I like a few posts back about your walk with God and faith. Thanks for reading. Blessings to you!

  7. Thanks for posting this!! Great blog!! Such truth!! It will be a life long battle to walk in faith and not feelings. To choose joy in the midst of feelings. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  8. Out of this excellent post, this sentence especially caught my attention: “Joy comes in that place of surrender, that place where we wake up to the blessing that God has poured out over us in the midst of our trial.” First, you are so right: choosing joy is a fight. But even in the midst of trial, God provides sweet blessings to counterbalance the challenges. Second, when the trial abates, and we can look back with the benefit of hindsight, we discover even more blessings that were not obvious before. For example, God-incidences that resulted in prospering us greatly. Thank you, Kirsten, for a thought-provoking post and also for stopping by my blog. I’m delighted you found “Sparrows in God’s Hand” to be meaningful.

    • I did! Thank you for stopping by my blog. You’ve commented with such relevant insight. All so good and so true. Looking back really does cause is to be thankful for some of the trials. Some probably remain painful through a lifetime, but God is always faithful and He is always good. I so appreciate your thoughtful comment and insight. Blessings to you today!

  9. Good morning Kirsten, Thank you for sharing your insights about joy. I think it is a matter that many battle with and it definately does not come easy. I find myself frowning and moping way to often, concentrating on the aspects of life that I don’t like, instead of finding joy in the Lord!

    • I know….it sure can be a fight for joy….I face the same thing. But, I’m so thankful for the reminder in scripture that joy comes from the inside out rather than outside-in. It’s not circumstantial. Thanks for stopping by!! Have a blessed day!

  10. I love this!! I can relate so well to this blog. It is funny I have felt attack the past couple of days because my life is fixing to get extremely busy again and I am wanting to stay involved in the Online Bible Study I am feeling the stress of everyday life before it even happens. I know it is just Satan trying to steal my joy. Thank you for this post.

    • You are so welcome! I can relate so much to you also!!! It is so the pattern of the enemy to get us all flustered and stressed before anything happens! We’ve got to choose joy right then and there from the inside out by the grace of God. Blessings to you today!!

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