For the past two years in the midst of multiple different seasons of my life I have practiced choosing simple phrases to meditate on, pray over, summarize, and resemble what I believe God is teaching me in that time. I have found that the focal point of a phrase has been such a strong and prominent reminder of where all control and hope comes from in every crazy life circumstance. For me, these reminding phrases always seem to give me a sense of peace and comfort when life is restless and unknown. For example, my freshman year of college God put four words on my heart in a time of uncertainty, big life transition, and indecision: “Thy Will Be Done”. Going into the summer after my freshman year as a camp counselor with a restless, exhausted in every way heart, I meditated on the words: “Be Still”. This past year in a cycle of confusion, bitterness, anxiety, and significant growth, the words that I held tightly onto were: “It Is Well”. (As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I did not create any of these phrases…yes, they are all extremely cliché and mainstream but, I’m a mainstream girl so, sorry friends). Each one of these phrases has a different testimony of trial, growth, strength, and personal meaning behind it. As a person who generally needs multiple reminders to function, these reminders have challenged me to grow further in my relationship with Jesus amidst every trial life has thrown at me.
As this summer starts to come to a close with only a few more days until I move back into school, I am thankful for the peace and sweet time that comes with a rest from the madness that is college life. At the same time, there is so much joy in the excitement of reunions with friends and the comfort of an established schedule. With an abundance of time for reflection, prayer, and preparation this summer, I feel as if there is strong potential for a different yet greater vibe this upcoming year.
In continuing my practice of seasonal reminders, my phrase for this summer has been: Choose Joy. God has been teaching me a LOT about the concept of joy lately. Joy is found in Jesus alone versus, the happiness we try to produce on our own earthly desires (but will never quite give us the same fulfillment as true joy). Finding our joy in Jesus brings peace, contentment, and a heart full of love. It is a true gift we get to experience when we are in relationship with the King.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13
At the same time, even though we know the power of this great gift, if we’re being honest there are countless moments in life when choosing joy isn’t exactly the easiest option we could take. When someone frustrates us, we don’t live up to an expectation, or we feel defeated, it’s often not as easy for us to immediately choose joy. This summer my desire and challenge has been, working on being a person who chooses joy in every situation, even when life gets tough because I know Jesus is greater than my circumstances. When I was lonely I found joy in the knowledge that he is my comfort and companion. When my summer plans didn’t work out the way I thought they would, there was joy to be found in the unraveling of his even greater plan for my life over the past few months. When I was living in a state of angry bitterness for several years, I found joy and freedom in forgiveness. Most recently, when I thought I was too young, too inexperienced, and not good enough to start a blog, Jesus said “take the first step and I’ll lead you from there”. He has already done immeasurably more than I could’ve ever hoped or imagined with this blog and I have experienced a greater sense of joy than I have ever felt before by simply saying “yes” to God’s call on my life. My biggest takeaway from this summer was gaining the knowledge that there is joy to be found in every situation simply because God’s presence is with us wherever we go.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” -James 1: 2-3
Going into this school year I am looking forward to the freeing opportunities to choose joy over stress, to choose joy over drama, and to choose joy over uncertainty for the future. Are there places in your life where you need to search for a deeper sense of joy? When was the last time you chose joy in a hard situation rather than anger, annoyance, or bitterness? God gave us this beautiful gift, our only job is to take it and experience it in our lives. Life becomes a little more beautiful when we are able to feel the joy of God’s presence all around us. My prayer for each of you as we head into the next few weeks is that you search for joy in all life circumstances and begin to experience God’s presence in a new way through the joy he freely gives.