My son was only nine years old went our family went through my Cancer battle. For such a young boy, he carried himself with such strength. He was asked the question, about 2 years later, “How do you know that God is real? His answer surprised me. He replied with a story about my illness. He told the story that while I was sick, I didn’t seem sick. He told them that his mom was always smiling. He told them I was always happy. I am not sure that anyone, much less someone suffering the effects of Cancer is “always” smiling or happy but what my little nine, ten or eleven year old was saying was that he experienced his mom sharing joy. He had front row seats to the Lord being my strength.
When you are experiencing something that is out of control how do you control what you can? Our emotions are one of the things that can be controlled. Our brains need us to redirect and train them. In the midst of problems and struggles we can control the message our brain is receiving and therefore control how we will come out of the battle. We can have peace and share peace. Walking in peace does not mean that we are not experiencing a challenging time. As Tony Evans says “Peace doesn’t mean that you will not have problems. Peace means that your problems will not have you” Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world but that we could have cheer because of the truth that He has already overcome it all! (John 16:33)
Training our thoughts to stay focused on who God is, makes room for joy and opens the door for another story to be written.
My family told me that it was very hard not to stay positive and ‘happy’ because I set the example. They tell me that I was a model for them and set the atmosphere of joy. How? Joy is a choice and I made that choice. I made the decision daily that there were things I was going to do – that I had to do to make it through this difficult time. Here are 3 of them.
- I gave thanks daily. I started my day giving thanks and had my phone set to a praise break for every hour. I ended my day with thanks.1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” It wasn’t always an easy choice but it was a simple one. It is God’s will. I chose to be obedient to God’s will and knew that thanksgiving could only be beneficial for me and my family. Thanksgiving brought joy. I chose to be deliberate about noticing the good, making the little things big and celebrating the small victories. Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Out of all the medication I was on and taking, choosing joy was the best, with only strengthening side effects! Choosing joy is allowing Jesus to take his hand and wipe away our tears.
- I chose company and not isolation. I am a very independent woman but yet very sociable when well. Through my illnesses, I had to learn to allow people the blessing of being a blessing. I didn’t want to be a burden but I also knew that I needed people around me to keep me laughing and moving in forward in life. I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Many people tend to go insular when experiencing struggle and although we may need time to regroup and some time by ourselves, we truly need others to help carry us. Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us, “two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” Galatians 6:2 reminds us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” The Lord did not intend for us to do life alone. I made sure that I kept in contact with people every day. The days that were hard, I texted and asked people to pray for me or to call me and share something positive with me. People gave me reasons to smile every day. Knowing that there were people I could call on and count on, brought me life. My boys were able to hear me laugh with people in person and on the phone. They were kept busy doing life giving activities. We celebrated the gift of life by living in each moment with others. I am so glad we did!
- I chose to keep praying and praising. Philippians 4:4-8 tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. We can do this because the Lord is near. In our times of anxiety, we are encouraged, “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, presents your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Prayer and praise are the joy lifeline. “Finally, my brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” The Lord is all these things. Training our thoughts to stay focused on who God is, makes room for joy and opens the door for another story to be written.
I had no idea that my joy choice would have such an effect on my boys. But hearing my son share that this was how he knew God was real, will forever be a moment in my heart. This is one choice I will never regret. It has produced fruit that will last. My sickness came into our lives without our permission and it was hard, but Cancer is not what dominates our story or memory. Our problems come and go. They will not last. Choosing Joy does make memories that last. Choosing joy is a way to tell your problems, they may have come uninvited for an unexpected visit but Jesus will show them the way out! He did that for us then and I trust him to do it over and over again. The story that joy wrote will always be a story of happiness and victory.