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Fight for Joy

This morning I looked in the mirror and smiled.  Really smiled.

I’m just going to be real here. It had been a while. Over the past couple weeks, and especially last Sunday and Monday, I had given over to negativity. I had focused on the mountains in my life, completely forgetting Who is the Lord of the mountains. And then, when I found out a dear friend had passed away, I fell apart.

If God wasn’t with me, then that would have been it. End of story. But Tuesday morning I woke up, and I felt like God told me I need to fight to see the blessings, the beauty right in front of my eyes. And so I made a choice. I told Him I was determined to see the gifts and take it a day at a time. It was hard.

But by Wednesday afternoon, I started to feel free again. And looking back on this whole week, I see God’s hand in every part of it. And I know I believe again that He is good.

And that’s why I want to share this with you. Not because I’m good at this thing called joy (far from it), but I write simply with the hope that it might encourage you in your journey.

Today I was thinking about the Disney princesses.  (Sounds off topic, but hang on.)  A common thread runs through their stories: A girl is treated cruelly by her step-mother and step-sisters, but she overcomes all, finds the man of her dreams, and lives happily ever after. In every story, the key character is beautiful and good. Like, she sings as she works. (I’ll maybe do that for 30 minutes max.) In other words, her joy isn’t diminished by her circumstances.

Of course, Disney doesn’t show the struggle involved. Yes, choosing joy is a battle. Especially when life is hard. We can be “happy” all we want when circumstances go our way, but when the waves roar and the winds howl, we have to make a conscious choice — a choice for negativity and self-pity or for joy and trust. Either we’re going to say, “I don’t deserve this” or “I never deserved anything, and everything is a gift.” There is no middle road.

It’s hard. It’s painful. It goes against everything we want to say and do in that moment. But nothing can rival the beauty of a joyful spirit.

My friend that passed away recently is part of the reason I’m writing this. She chose joy. I remember one time when she had to go to the hospital and then miss church for a few weeks because she was sick. She had reason to complain, because church was like her second family. But the next time I saw her, she said, “Yes, I’ve been under the weather lately, but how are you?”

Wow. Could I live like that? When I have a husband and kids and I’m running around crazy trying to do everything I’m supposed to do? When I’m old, dealing with aches and pains, grieving the loss of friends and family? Could I live that right now?

The thing is, I’m good at making excuses for not choosing joy. “I’m stressed.” “I’m tired.” “I’m sick.” There’ll always be a reason to complain, but then again, there will always be a thousand reasons to thank God. And if He is faithful and unchangeable and my joy is from Him, then doesn’t that mean that my joy is unchangeable? That true joy is something apart from my circumstances?

I want to live this. Can you pray for me, join me? Together, in Him, we can fight for joy.

Allison Burkhard is a 20-year-old college student in Sacramento, Calif., who loves teaching music lessons, spending time with friends and family, and exploring the great outdoors through biking and sailing.

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