Watching a movie, you know if you’re only 45 minutes in, the story still has a long way to go. Where are my Yellowstone fans at? Season 3 just began, so you know there’s a whole lot of crap to still go down. More trips to the train station, more blowups at the family dinner table, more problems from the neighbors, more cowboys riding off into sunset to make things right, it’s all to come. This is not the end. How do you know? Because season 3 just started!
I’m currently watching the series on Netflix called ‘Maid’. Not knowing how many episodes there were in the series, at the end of episode 2, we felt like it was a proper ending, then the next one started. Oh, this isn’t over. There’s more to come. Que the sunshine and happy music, things got so much better. But wait, we just realized at episode 4 we’re only half-way through this story, so there’s more hardship to come. If there weren’t, where would the story be?
And this is life. Whatever is currently bad will not always be bad, and whatever is good right now won’t last forever. This is the flow of our lives. This is the unfolding of our story. The only thing is, you can’t peek to see how many more episodes are to come or how many seasons this will continue, so you’re here fully invested in what is now.
What is now for you? Where are you? What do you have? What are you going through? There’s something here for you sis. Something for you to learn. Something to draw you in closer to your Creator and who he created you to be. Something to prepare you for what is coming next. The whole point is to be fully in this episode of your life, while knowing things are always changing.
Can you be here today, immersed in the full reality of this episode of YOU, without fantasizing or fearing what could be next? Can you receive what God has for you now, live these moments to the fullest, and trust the unfolding of life as it happens?
Life can be hard to trust. It’s so fragile and uncertain. It’s so limited and unpredictable. But remember who holds your entire world. Remember who sees it all, knows it all, and has complete control over it all. This is your personal God. This is your Redeemer. This is your Savior. Within his palm, stretched between his thumb and pinky finger, rests the entire world. Your world is there, in the hand of the Almighty. And honey, he’s not going to drop you.
As the episodes of our life unfold and seasons pass, we begin to understand the flow of life. We journey through the highs and the lows. We feel the sunshine on our face, then we know the harsh winds bring the bitter cold. But, it won’t last forever. None of this will last forever. Just as the sunshine didn’t last forever, the bitterness won’t either. And through it all, God is teaching us how to continually, regardless of circumstances live in joy. He’s teaching us the secret of life. Yes, the secret Paul wrote about in Philippians 4.
Verse 4 “Always be full of joy in the Lord.”
Always. That’s a strong word. That’s all-inclusive. Always. In good and in bad, in ease and in hardship, in knowing and in not having a freaking clue, ALWAYS be full of joy in the Lord. God’s intention for you today is to be full of joy. Yes, in the middle of all that is happening, right here in your reality of today, he intends for you to have joy. But, here’s the thing, you have to choose it. Joy is an offering on the buffet of life, but so is misery. Regret is available. Overwhelm is right there with a big serving spoon to pile it on your plate if you so choose.
But girl, it doesn’t look good on you. Misery never comes in your color. Overwhelm adds at least 20 pounds. Regret, oh dang that just aged you by a good 10 years. But joy … ahhhhhh girl, nothing looks better on you! Get you some of that today!
What … you don’t feel joy is appropriate for the circumstances of today? Says who? Who says you’re obligated to be void of joy today? Who says you can’t get yourself a helping of joy? This is the buffet of life, girl help yourself! When scripture says ALWAYS be full of joy, that means fill up on it no matter what so you’re not tempted to dip into the other stuff life offers. If you’re FULL of joy, there’s no room for regret. If you’re filled up on joy, you won’t be taste-testing misery. Nope, ain’t nobody got time for overwhelm when you’re overflowing with joy.
But how? How exactly do you fill up on joy? Especially when life is less than perfect and you’re on episode 5 of your life, wondering if maybe this thing is getting cancelled. What are the steps to always being full of joy? I’m glad you asked. Still in Ephesians 4, now verses 6-7:”Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Yip, I know it sounds ridiculously simple, and really it is. It’s that simple. Joy is found when we pray about everything, tell God what we need and thank him for all he has done. Something indescribable happens as a result. Something you just can’t explain, but you experience God’s peace. Peace that brings calm in the storm. Peace that reminds you this isn’t over. Peace that doesn’t make sense. But this peace guards your heart and your mind, changing your thoughts and your feelings.
What are your thoughts when experiencing this peace? Oh, there’s an entire list coming in the next verse: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
This is the process of choosing to fill up on joy.
Choose Your Thoughts
Over the past 2.5 years, our family has gone through a continual struggle that threatens to keep me up at night. Our reality pokes at my peace. This family situation offers me misery every single day. It offers me worry. It pedals regret. But this is the buffet of life. I choose what I pile on my plate. And God has been teaching me to choose joy.
Yes, choose joy when things still aren’t changing. Choose joy when it hurts. Choose joy when it appears hopeless. Choose joy when thoughts of fear try to invade my mind. A few months into this hardship, I felt God tell me this would be a long season and it wasn’t going to be fixed anytime soon. And I also felt him tell me he would still offer me joy in the middle of it, and he wanted me to choose it over and over again. He wanted me to keep living, and living well. He wanted me to keep fulfilling my purpose, even when the way had gotten really messy. So, I’m learning how to do that. As nothing is resolved and circumstances still appear bleak, I have an overflowing energy of joy and a passion to show up and fulfill my purpose. All I need to do is return to the process:
Choose My Thoughts
This is what Paul is talking about then in verses 11-13: I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Hey sis, have you learned how to be content with wherever you are in your story? Have you learned the secret of living in every situation? Aren’t you now seeing you can do everything when you are receiving strength from Jesus? Yes, everything. Even the things you didn’t think you could do. The things you didn’t want to do. Here you are, making it through it.
And joy is still in the offering. Joy that allows you to savor what you have while you have it, and joy that allows you to release the things that have expired in this season, knowing God has a good plan that’s still unfolding.
I don’t know how many more episodes or seasons you have, but I know this … you have today. And today you have the makings of JOY! You have the secret of living no matter what your situation. All you need to do is pray, praise, receive peace, choose your thoughts, and feel that joy!
This is the secret of living.