If you are like me, you love this time of year! Perhaps you have been…
Today, I am doing last minute invitations to friends and folowers to join me in Discovering Joy in Philippians- Holiday edition Zoom face to face virtual Bible study (starting Nov 3). As I prepare, I am also praying for those women who will join me and pondering just HOW FAR God has brought this girl on my joy journey!
Growing up with an abusive father, I learned early to “choose joy” despite my circumstances. But, decades after I learned to be joyful, a storm hit my life that threatened to replace that sunshine with dark foreboding clouds of doubt. (And I know THIS year, 2020, we can ALL relate to unexpected storms!)
Bill and I, who had been married at that time, 25 years, with three almost-grown sons, were on a book media tour when the storm rolled in. Bill wasn’t feeling well, so we went to an ER where a doctor informed him he had high blood pressure. The news caught Bill’s attention. His dad had a stroke in his 40s that left him paralyzed, and Bill’s grandfather died of a strok in his early 40s.
Soon, we realized God was asking Bill to resign from the lead pastor role he had served in for 15 years. This decision was difficult emotionally and financially. But that was just the beginning. Within a very short time, our youngest son Caleb was seriously injured in a football game and needed a blood transfusion to save his life. A week later, with Caleb just home from the hospital, our other two sons also experienced serious injuries. Then another wave hit. My younger brother had a heart attack and I was needed to help with his children. My stress was welling up like a tidal wave.
When friends asked how I was doing, I didn’t know how to answer. Then God took me back to what I had known as a girl. He brought to mind Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
“Rejoice” is a verb, an action. I could choose joy.
Here are four simple ways I discovered how I could cultivate JOY:
Look UP: Joy comes from God, so I began a “joy hunt” through His Word. I gathered an extensive list of verses on joy. I printed them, studied them, tried to memorize them, and posted them on sticky notes as art around my home. I soaked in joy, pondering the verses again and again, in order to hang on to joy. I prayed verses like: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” (Psalm 16:11).
Look BACK: I also began to retrace God’s faithfulness in my life. Now I keep a JOY JOURNAL, a scrapbook of sorts that records my praise requests and praises as God answers. I include photos of people and prayer requests. I use colorful pens and write Scriptures around the photos. I also leave space to record God’s answer!
Look OUT: I learned I couldn’t face the tough times alone. I began to prayer walk and with friends. As we walked, we PRAYED scripture and we PRAISED God for His faithful character—and because we were exercising happy endorphins were also released! Praying verses of joy is like the lifesaver, tossed to rescue you when you feel life is drowning you with sorrow.
Look AHEAD: My 70-year-old mentor taught me to hold on to joy by looking forward. This friend had overcome illness and created a path of hope after the death of her spouse by always planning something to look forward to. Now, I work to make sure my calendar includes things that will replenish me and things that will help to restore the hope and joy of others. (Keeping an “other-centered” life also lifts your spirits!)
This life-stage squall raged for 3 years. However, in God’s hands, by “Choosing Joy” God transformed those roaring waves into the very power we needed to surf safely to shore.
How has God taught you to choose His joy?
Join me for the 11 week joy journey through Discovering Joy in Philippians: Aur Creative Bible Study Experience, through a virtual bible Study Nov 3 – Feb 9. We will study JOY in the bible, learn some proven methods of practically cultivating joy in each of our lives, and become joy-givers to others — and we wil CELEBRATE some fun holidays along the way!
Pam Farrel is a relationship expert, international Bible teacher, and together with her husband, Bill, she is Co-Director of Love-Wise. She is also the author of 52 books including best-selling Discovering Hope in the Psalms and Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience. These Discovering the Bible series books are Amazon bestsellers and winners of the Golden Scroll Bible Study of the Year Award. Connect with Pam at www.Love-Wise.com and on the Bill and Pam Farrel Facebook page.