Choose Joy: A Reflection

I recently read a book titled Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver. In it the book talks about Sara’s outlook on life and how she continually chose joy even while her life was becoming more restricted due to an illness. She was a woman of faith who sought God continually to help her find the joy in each day, especially on rough days. I don’t really know how to share the encouragement and truth I received through the book other than to share some quotes from it along with my personal thoughts.

More than anything, I’m in the habit of believing if I just continue to step out in faith, that God will put what I need in front of me. That He’ll line my path with the abilities and confidence that I’m lacking. p5

This is a really encouraging thought. I know intellectually that God will equip me with what I need for his purposes at the needed time. My heart sometimes has trouble accepting this and so I struggle with giving in to fear when I face something new or daunting.

I think our expectations of what we want life to be often overshadow the good things that are already in front of us – and that’s when we miss the silver lining. p14

I choose joy. When something is going badly and I’m dwelling on it, I think instead of something for which I am grateful. I swear to you, it’s as simple as that. You just have to decide today, and again tomorrow. And before you know it, you’ll have an attitude of joy more than any other attitude you have at your disposal. p27

I have been thinking about needing to be more grateful for the things in my life. I know that gratefulness is a key to contentment. I don’t want to be someone who is always striving for the next, better thing. I want to be able to see the blessings in my life and be joyful for them without a pull to want something more. Especially since I have recently been reminder that Jesus is enough. If I have him, I have everything I need. My discontentment means that I am not believing that Jesus is enough for me.

Control is an illusion. Life will do with me what it pleases, my circumstance will change, my pain will fluctuate, my finances will come and go, my health will alter at will (and alter my weight right along with it), and the only thing I can do is stay open to letting God change me in those circumstances. p40

I definitely struggle with wanting to be in control of my life. I feel like I have been more open recently to allowing God to change how I have perceive events. He has encouraged me to give more grace to others instead of judgment. He is trying to get me to trust him with everything.

Let go of the expectations I put on myself to be more than myself. It’s a constant process as I lose more abilities, to adapt and adjust and let go of the notion that what I should be is anything other than what I am. p66

This strikes right at my heart. I often am concerned with being the person I think other people want me to be, even if something is not in my range of abilities. I really struggle with being okay with not being great in every area or with doing things differently than most others (especially in parenting).

It’s a relief to know we’re not graded on a curve, but instead loved for exactly who we are designed to be. I am whole. I am who He created me to be. p77

Life isn’t fair. But it wasn’t meant to be. What we tend to forget is that we created the idea of fair. God didn’t. He never told us we deserve a perfect existence. He never told us life would be simple if we were faithful. He just told us to be faithful, and that He would be, too. p111 

 I have been dealing with this recently with my five year old. She has been complaining quite a bit about things not being fair. Usually it’s when her younger brother gets something she doesn’t. I usually start with “Life isn’t fair” and then remind her of something she has gotten that he hasn’t. Not that it squashes this mentality of wanting fairness but I’m hoping I’m planting some seeds of truth.

It has been in those silent times, when my mind drifts into thoughts and topics at random, that I get sparks of Him. I get an idea or a conclusion or a peace that I know has nothing to do with me. But I have to be quiet. I have to be with Him. p125

This reminded me of the importance of not always being on the go, of spending some time reflecting and being still. Being still is sometimes so hard because it feels counterproductive or like wasted time. But opening my heart and mind to God is never a waste.

Imagine if we all went about our lives remembering the core of who we are: a Spirit born in the image of Christ who is sent here to fulfill a purpose before going back home. I forget that so easily. I want to make this life all about me. All about my human existence instead of my spiritual being. I want to worry about my health and my finances and my housing and my potential. I want less pain and more easy. I want I want I want. p157

I frequently fail to take this perspective that God does have a purpose for me each day and I ought to be seeking his will throughout the day. Often I am focused on my self-made to-do list. I allow bumps in my plans to frustrate me rather than considering that they may be God’s plan for me that day.

These last few quotes are from some of Sara’s friends and what she taught them through their relationships.

Sara taught me that choosing joy doesn’t mean living in denial of reality. It doesn’t mean pretending everything is okay when it’s not. It doesn’t mean not allowing ourselves to grieve or acknowledge our own heartaches in life. It means being honest and authentic with where we are and, from that place, still lifting our eyes homeward. p169

Beautifully said. Speaking your grief or hurts is not the opposite of choosing joy. It is okay to acknowledge that life isn’t always roses. Through an honest account of our struggles we can begin the process of healing and finding Jesus in our circumstances.

Choosing joy is acknowledging that while I don’t understand what’s going on, God does. Choosing joy is remembering that while life seems to be spiraling out of control, it is never out of God’s control. Choosing joy is remaining mindful that while my circumstances may feel anything but ideal, God still has my good and His glory in mind. Because like Sara said, “It’s not about me. It’s about what He can do with my life.” That statement holds the very essence of her lifestyle of choosing joy. p170

Such a good perspective to take. Choosing to trust God is involved in your life and will bring some good from any situation (Romans 8:28) helps us to remain hopeful no matter what is going on in our lives.

I dove in. Heart-first. Because that’s how all of the great things in life are to be done. p171

This sounds amazing and also super scary. I read Dr. Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly earlier this year and its focus was on being vulnerable, which pretty much means living with your heart open (she calls it living wholeheartedly). I know that this is the only way to really connect and live well but it’s still hard to risk rejection and judgment. Perhaps if I trust that wholehearted living is a gift I am giving to others and that falling just means I tried and am still able to get back up and try again, I will have the courage to do so.

She told me once that the most important gift you could give someone was your full and undivided attention. p171

This last quote hit me personally because I have realized recently that I often fail to be present in moments with people, most frequently my children. The things I am choosing to distract me are worthless compared to really seeing and being with my kids. They are so sweet and kind and funny. Why would I want to miss these moments? I hear over and over again that these years are short and I know they’ll be gone before I’m ready.

I hope these small bits from the book encouraged you and made you think as they did for me. Sara’s joy, gratefulness and heavenward perspective are inspiring and make me want to live similarly. If you are desiring a more joyful heart, I strongly recommend reading this book.

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