What If I Don’t Feel Joyful?

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18

At times, it’s nearly impossible to be joyful.

I wanted to sulk. I wanted to stew over the events of the morning. I let the muscles of my face form a scowl of displeasure – the kind that can be spotted from across the room and shouts, “don’t even think about talking to me today!”

I hadn’t began the day in a bad mood, but after calmly asking my kids to get dressed three times, wiping up spilled milk twice, and realizing we should have walked out the door five minutes ago, I got a little irritated. But when we were halfway down the block before I realized one child left his lunch at home, I lost it.

Has that ever happened to you? It’s not a fun feeling. The sad thing is, I believed my attitude was justified. I thought my circumstances warranted a loss of self-control. My emotions dictated my actions, culminating in a regret-filled commute.

During my drive, the Lord used a familiar song on the radio to gently remind me that it doesn’t matter if I feel like being joyful. It matters that I choose to be joyful.

Regardless of what is going on around us, we have the opportunity to choose our response. Habakkuk’s story is one of choosing joy in the midst of pending devastation.

Habakkuk’s prophetic conversation with the Lord is recorded in three chapters of the Old Testament. He documents concerns about a great deal of corruption among the Jews. Habakkuk wants to know how God will respond. He learns of the Lord’s plan to send the Babylonians to overtake them, resulting in the loss of lives and livestock.

Habakkuk’s initial incredulous response eventually transforms into blind trust as he realizes his faith is not in earthly belongings, but in the Lord. He sings,

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
(Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Habakkuk recognizes that nothing about his worldly experience alters the course of his salvation and heavenly destination. Thus, he chooses joy.

When joy is based on emotion, it wavers according to our circumstances. When joy is a choice rooted in the truth of God’s Word, it never changes.

No matter how much I long for one, a blissfully joyous life simply isn’t in the cards because I am a flawed human married to another flawed human who produced three more flawed humans. But the amazing part is that through all of the chaos, discouragement, and struggles of life, I can choose my response. And I choose joy.

5 Little Things To Find Joy In This Season

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3

While running errands recently, I couldn’t help but notice the excitement of the season growing within me. Yes, Halloween was just a couple weeks ago, but the stores are bursting with sights, smells, and tastes of the holidays. And I love it. The next six weeks will include my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas and during those times, I will get to visit with many friends and family members.

Although the temptation to be overwhelmed by the upcoming busyness of the season is in full force, pausing to find joy in the little things may be just what we need to make it through. Here are five little things I’ve found joy in so far:

Cinnamon
Cinnamon is the smell of the season. From brooms, to sticks, to potpourri, the warmth wafts gently into my nose as I enter the local grocery store. The inviting scent begs me to take some home. I’m reminded of pecan cinnamon rolls freshly baked on Christmas morning and red hot candies decorating cut-out cookies. Joy is found in the aroma of a spice mentioned in Song of Songs 4:13-14 –  Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices. What familiar smells remind you of the holidays?

Toasted White Chocolate Mocha
For those of us who love sweet coffee beverages, welcome to taste bud heaven. Yes, I’m talking about pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas, and caramel brulee frappicinos! I had forgotten how delicious the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha was until that day I was running errands. For those of you who haven’t tried one, imagine a perfectly toasted marshmallow smothered in white chocolate, drizzled with caramel, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. They’re like Christmas in a cup. Oh wait, that’s actually unsweetened cinnamon light soy lattes… Regardless, my tongue found intense joy in the flavor of the beverage, a sweetness likened to the decrees of the Lord, which are more precious than pure gold and sweeter than honey from the honeycomb (Psalm 19:9-10)

Advent Calendars
I see them in a variety of styles and themes – advent calendars. They count down the 24 days leading up to the much-anticipated morning of gift-giving. And although Christmas is nearly commercialized beyond recognition, we can see the true meaning peeking through these advent calendars – the picture of Mary and Joseph gazing upon Jesus in the manger, the shepherds visiting as the sheep peacefully linger under a bright star in the midnight sky. The countdown symbolizes the foretelling of Jesus’ arrival as found in Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. A joyful smile makes its way onto my face as I see Christ upon the grocery store shelf.

Jingle Bells
Typically, I’m a stickler for waiting to listen to Christmas music until Black Friday. However, on this particular outing, I welcomed the sound of Jingle Bells overhead because it went nicely with what I was smelling, tasting, and seeing. You see, Christmas is the only time when playing “Christian” music is acceptable in secular realms. It’s not uncommon to hear Joy to the World, O Holy Night, and Mary Did You Know? while navigating the sale racks at Old Navy. For some, this may be the only time they hear the good news of Jesus’ birth as announced by the angels in Luke 2 – “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (v. 11-12) Rejoice in the message of hope available to all!  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (v. 13-14) May we, too, be filled with the joy of the angels as we embrace the sounds of Christmas – even if it is before Thanksgiving.

Greeting Cards
And last but not least, those greeting cards. During my outing, perusing an aisle of greeting cards brought back memories of how much fun it is to receive old-school snail mail from friends and families. Our refrigerator quickly fills up with sturdy, card stock notes capturing happy moments. The style, shape, and size may all differ, but the message is the same – wishing you and yours a season of happiness and merriment. We can appreciate the efforts of others to spread cheer even when our lives are less than happy. Perhaps the loss of a loved one is making it exceptionally difficult to be joyful this year. Even then, our hearts can be touched as our fingertips contact the paper – a physical reminder of the reason for the season, Jesus. May we be as excited as Elizabeth and exclaim: As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. (Luke 1:44)

So if the approaching holiday season is feeling overwhelming, burdensome, or simply dreadful, find hope in the appreciation of little things. Find moments of reprieve in ordinary places, while doing mundane tasks, amidst a daily routine. For it’s the joy found in these little things that makes the big things a bit smaller.