Chuck Swindoll said something that has been quoted often. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” Steve Backley says it this way, “Like everything in life, it’s not what happens to you but how you respond to it that counts.” James – who wrote the book of James in the Bible says it even better in James 1 “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.”  These men were sharing a truth and principle that helps people to overcome trials if they learn it and apply it. Our attitude matters. In James the truth becomes more specific. No matter what we face in life, choosing joy gives us the strength to make it to the end of a difficult time. Choosing joy allows you to look back and see how strong you were. Choosing joy allows you to look back and see how strong God was in you and for you.

Life has a lot of challenges. It seems as though they are getting harder, coming more frequently and coming in multiples. The news that we hear in our own lives, about those close to us or even about things happening to strangers, is not getting any better. The world would say that we have a lot to complain about. It is very easy to complain and many would probably be patient and more gracious with you, agreeing that you are entitled and have every right.

I would like to suggest that life is hard enough without adding unnecessary sadness or negative attitudes to it. Negativity, complaining, anger and a lack of gratitude is quite the weight to carry. They only leave you feeling heavy. After you have made it through a storm you want to come out better not bitter. I have heard it said “when you complain, you remain; but when you praise you will be raised.” Having a bad attitude only works against you. It serves you more of what you are trying to get away from. You end up sinking deeper or staying where you don’t belong instead of taking a step forward or moving to higher lever ground. Being in a happy place; a place of praise, thanksgiving and gratitude, or having a song in your heart, raises you closer to God and above your circumstance. It gives you a broader perspective.

James talks of joy ultimately producing perseverance. Joy helps you to stay the course and not give up on your dreams or future. Joy doesn’t mean that there isn’t pain, it just means that you are choosing not to let pain control your life. Experiencing pain and reaching for joy are both hard. Choosing to stay in negativity and choosing to rise in joy are both hard. Only one yields better results. Choose your hard. Joy reveals things you would not have seen before. There are secrets that joy unlocks that cannot be removed by any circumstance. Joy opens the door to a hopeful future. It helps you to hold on to the truth that things won’t always be difficult. Things don’t ever stay the same.

Here are some ways to fuel your joy. Laugh. Laugh hard. Laugh often. Laughter has physical, emotional and social benefits. I have read that 15 minutes of laughter gives the benefits of 2 hours sleep! It reduces blood pressure. One minute of laughter equals ten minutes of strenuous activity and two minutes is as healthy as a twenty minute jog! I truly would choose laughter above some of these activities. Did you know that one minute of anger weakens the immune system for 4 to 5 hours but one minute of laughing boost your immune system for 24 hours?

Joy doesn’t mean that there isn’t pain, it just means that you are choosing not to let pain control your life. Experiencing pain and reaching for joy are both hard.

Seems to me that the better choice is obvious! People that laugh together strengthen communication and their relationships are healthier and more positive. Having positive feelings triggers and connects to people create a bond. This bond acts as a buffer against stress and its effects. God has a reason for advising us to choose joy. He knows that life would be hard for us and what we would need to keep going.  Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety weighs down the heart but a kind word cheers it up.” It is unlikely that unhappy, ungrateful, grumpy people speak many kind words. Joy helps us to speak like and reduce anxiety. Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Joy keeps hope close and truly brings health to one’s heart and body. I learned that first hand in my battle with cancer. On my very hard days I needed hope and joy more than ever. I wouldn’t have found it keeping negative thoughts. I wouldn’t have had a lot to look forward to if I kept company with negative people either.

Another practise that brings joy to my heart is music. I love to sing and I love to hear music. Worship and praise are usually what I do when I sing. Sometimes I dance! David says in Psalm 40 that God puts a new song of praise in your heart and through that many see and trust God. In essence, having a song brings more of God’s favour. Psalm 22:3 tells us “God inhabits the praise of His people.” In good times and even more so in bad times, those of us who love the Lord want him to be close. We want to know He is with us. This scripture tells us that God is living with us when we praise Him. His presence is in the midst of our praises.

When we praise and when we sing, this helps us to become more aware of what God is doing and has done. If fuels our gratitude. Psalms 103 makes this connection. Bless the Lord and forget not…and then lists just a few things for which we should be grateful. Practising gratitude is another thing I do to help me stay in joy. Thanksgiving is deliberate. It is intentional. I choose to daily look for people, things and experiences for which I can be thankful. I choose to speak about what makes me thankful. I choose to share my gratitude with others. There are so many benefits of gratitude. It improves relationships. It improves behaviour and work performance. It improves internal satisfaction. If you appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t have it is so much easier to be joyful.

We can’t escape challenges and disappointments. Most times we are not in control of what happens to us. We are however in control of our response. 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 is a great example of how choosing joy, through remembering what God has done, where God has brought us from, who God is and that He is still in control can bring strength. It reminds us to stop focusing on trouble and to focus on God through praise. The enemy loves to have us focus on our negative emotions. If we are led by our negative feelings the enemy keeps us defeated. If we are led by positive feelings that are founded and grounded on God’s truth, we have victory. We would be wise to choose joy. We would always benefit from a positive attitude. Always.

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