It’s the Christmas season 2016. We celebrate Christmas as the season of Joy. “Joy to t he World,” as the hymn rings out. For many, the season does bring joy. For others, it brings heartache reminders of lost loved ones. Some cry because they don’t have the Hallmark Christmas they believe should be for everyone.
The truth is that none of us have families where it is “all as it should be,” as designed by God’s original design plan. Nonetheless, I thank God for the good things, and there are many. We live in a peaceful land. I have a roof over my head and food on the table. I am blessed with many wonderful friends and family members. I do not take these lightly.
Even in good circumstances, people say hurtful things that cut to the heart. This happened to me this week, and I found myself in the bathroom crying and feeling rotten. I knew I couldn’t leave till I forgave that person. I forgave them as an act of obedient. It wasn’t how I felt. But I know enough not to harbor any hurtful exchange, and to forgive the words, the moment, the misunderstanding of the heart. I laid it down and asked God for a fresh heart to love this person and continue on. I had apologized for my part sincerely, and as best I knew how. I had forgiven her for the things she had said that hurt me. Now I had to wait for my friend to figure out what she would do. I asked for comfort from the sting of the words. He granted me this. However, I felt raw and robbed of joy for the season. Walking past the Christmas tree, I wanted to cry all over again. I settled for sad. I looked sad; I felt sad; I sounded sad.
At that point, God prompted me with an idea, “You could choose joy.” Of course, I didn’t feel any joy at the moment. I was about to reject the idea altogether. He said, “You’ve forgiven her. You know the friendship will continue. You know there’s moments coming where you’ll laugh together again. I’ve offered to take care of the issue and work on her heart. You know reconciliation is coming. I know how you feel right now. But you can choose to walk in the joy of forgiveness, and the joy of knowing there’s a new chapter coming. You are invited to divinely exchange your sad feelings with the mantle of joy. You can consciously choice to be joyful…Now.” Really?
I knew the situation wasn’t able to give me joy right now. But I could allow for the privilege to forgive and allow God to restore joy. I could choose to focus on the other parts of the day, and the season, that were joy-worthy. I could choose to stand in faith-filled confidence that we two friends would get to happiness together in each other’s company again. I could choose to return to joy without losing the three days of sadness that it might take for this friend to respond to my voiemail, and revisit the accusation with a fresh set of eyes. I could believe this would happen. And meanwhile I could literally choose joy now. It would not be based on the circumstances actually happening, yet. Rather, it was a choice based in confidence that God would restore the situation.
Choosing joy wasn’t a false pretense. It didn’t circumvent my part of heart searching and getting to genuine repentance and forgiveness. It wasn’t shoving the incident under the carpet where it would smell in three days. It wasn’t burying the incident without processing. It wasn’t pretending it had never happened. Now it followed a genuine business meeting with Jesus laying out my flawed part of the exchange. True repentance, forgiveness and willingness to move forward transpired before God. He had heard and given his commitment to help. Now it was time to proceed. And it was his suggestion to “choose joy.” Ephesians 5:2 says to “walk in love.” Even when we don’t feel like it. This time He spoke about joy. I chose to put on a smile, allow Him to do what I could not do with my friend. And pick up my lengthy “Things to To List” and move forward in JOY. I told my face muscles to move from a scowl into a smile. I said, “All right. Very funny God.” Then I smiled again, and turned the corner from Sad Street to Pathway to Joy.