That day, my nursing supervisor called me to intervene with an employee situation. Since I’d worked in mental health for fifteen years before becoming a school nurse, she depended on me to help settle down a staff member who was upset, out of control about a student situation she felt had been mishandled. By the time I arrived at the school, the employee appeared to be manic and was distrustful. I spoke with the guidance counselor who had knowledge of the incident. Before I left her office, I noticed a banner above her desk that said, I Choose Joy!
I met with the troubled employee and eventually she calmed down and left for the day. Later she got the help she needed. Over time, that incident faded from my memory, but the banner never did.
I Choose Joy!
What a simple, declarative statement. Years later, I remembered that banner. Three days after I received my breast cancer diagnosis, I was lying across my bed on a Friday after work, feeling totally downcast, overwhelmed with the long road of treatment ahead of me. My sadness was interrupted by a phone call from my cousin, Ron. He told me he’d just found out about my cancer.
“Connie, you’re not going to believe this, but God is going to bring you such joy,” he said, my cousin who knew about hard times. He’d had many health problems, including cancers and a liver transplant. His life appeared to be one challenge after the other, and we often thought he had ‘9 Lives.’
He went on to explain.
“You’re going to be aware of God and all the ways he works during this time,’ he said. “I know, because that’s what has happened for me.”
How can that be? I thought. With the chemo that I faced, inevitable losing of my hair, thirty-plus rounds of radiation, events that I’d miss when I had to avoid exposure to crowds, how could I experience Joy in those circumstances?
Weeks after our phone call, I was reading in the Psalms, my go-to book of the Bible when I went through cancer treatment. I identified with the Psalmist crying out to God in despair. My poor concentration could handle a pithy psalm, like the one in the first portion of Psalm 86:17 (NIV):
” Give me a sign of your goodness”
On mornings when I started the day feeling I just couldn’t make it through all the challenges, I prayed that Psalm. Then I’d watch to see how God answered my plea.
I don’t know how much of seeing God’s answer was because my eyes were focused on the goodness in my path, and how much God placed things there after that prayer. Maybe some of both.
Over the past few years, my morning devotional before my walk, comes from Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. I am grateful to Sarah for how she writes in a way to help the reader see things from God’s POV. Her words have been used in my life to help me become more present to God in each moment. In the October 5threading in Sarah’s book, she writes:
“Remember that Joy is not dependent on your circumstances.” And further down the page, “True Joy is a by-product of living in My Presence.”
Now her words help me to put these pieces about Joy into a more fully-formed understanding.
Ron experienced that Joy going through his crises because he lived in God’s presence. No matter how much the impact of the anti-rejection drugs wore down his body, he chose to be present with God, and that’s how he experienced joy.
Thinking of the banner, I Choose Joy, that action of choosing is key. Choosing to be present with God, is choosing Joy.
That verse from Psalm 86 asking God to “Give me a sign of your goodness” works when we are present to God in each moment, able to see the blessings in our path, no matter our circumstances.
I’m grateful for that banner in the guidance counselor’s office all those years ago. Now, at those times when I feel downcast, I remember that Joy is a choice. I have the power to choose no matter what challenges I face. May we all be able to say
I CHOOSE JOY!
How About You?
Is there a situation in your life where you need to choose Joy?
How would taking that action step change that experience?