I choose joy.

I watched the sun set last Sunday from the backseat of my aunt and uncle’s car on the way home from Sante Fe. It had been raining off and on so the sky was overcast and the sun wasn’t as visible as I like it to be, but the light and colors were enough over the plains of the Oklahoma/Texas border. I wanted it to look prettier to take a picture, but it wasn’t what I hoped for. But it was still beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ugly sunset. It wasn’t one of those moments that takes your breath away; I had to look more intentionally. I chose to find beauty it in.

Throughout the 23 years of my life, I have learned that not everything will be as I hope for. I have very little to no control of what happens in the big picture of my life and the lives around me. Yes, I am responsible for my actions, choices, and reactions, but I know Who really holds my life in His hands. Since last Sunday’s setting sun I have encountered more opportunities to choose to find the beauty, and if none, choose joy.

I love my friends. I love to laugh with them and talk about the important and goofy things in life, because we can’t be serious all the time. I love to play volleyball, camp, play board games, watch movies, and eat with them. I hate to see them hurt. Hate it. It physically pains me to know a friend is hurting. Over the last week, three of my very dear friends have called or texted with struggles and situations I can’t imagine going through. And these are tough friends; not ones to complain much or ever. I listened and prayed and loved as best I could. But I couldn’t take away their pain. I can’t change what their going through. On Thursday I found out I did not get the job I really wanted, and Friday my car broke down on the way to my current part-time job. To be honest, it’s hard to find the beauty in it all. Is there any? I don’t know. I don’t say any of this for pity on me, or my friends really. Life is hard. Crappy things are going to happen. But I, we, can choose how to react. It’s okay to be upset and hurt with friends who hurt. It’s okay to be bummed about not landing the “dream” job. But if I react that way and not hold on to my joy, I will become miserable.

We often interchange joy and happiness, and that is a big mistake. Happiness is a temporary emotion; it is fleeting. Happiness can also be faked. Joy is genuine and is not dependent on a given circumstance. Joy is what we find when we have seen Jesus. Jesus never left my friends or me in the midst of those dark or frustrating life moments. It may be hard to see Him, but if He is here then there is opportunity to choose joy. Choosing joy does not fix the situation or make it all better, but it will open your eyes to Who is better. Just like the sun was still setting behind those clouds, I couldn’t see it, but I still saw its light. Actually, we never see the sun itself, the giant ball of gas that it is; we just see the light it gives out. I take some comfort in that. I see the light from this source I’ve never been close enough to actually see, and I feel the heat from what I can never be close to touch and live. God sent His Son to be the light that I’ve only seen in my heart and the hearts of those who believe. He sent Him so I could feel Him in my soul and in the warm embraces of those who love Him more than themselves.

He is the reason I choose joy.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter‬ ‭1‬:‭8-9‬ NIV

You may not know the friends and the situations I speak of, but if you are a friend of Jesus I ask that you please pray for them. Thank you.