How To Choose Joy

By Candid Guest Therese Kay

A couple of months ago my friend’s mom was admitted into a nursing home for “failure to thrive.” She was choosing not to eat or drink, which had negative repercussions. When we refuse the nourishment we need, we fail to thrive.

That’s an interesting way to begin a blog about joy, eh? But I truly believe this is a useful allegory. I’ve been there. I refused nourishment and joy and the spiritual gifts (Galatians 5:22-23) that feed me and failed to thrive. Life and grief are hard and therefore we must actively choose to nourish ourselves with the things that help us thrive in life. Joy is a choice that we must actively pursue and seek in our lives.

Of course, there are times and seasons when we refrain from joy, just as there are times and seasons we may fast and refrain from food or other necessary things. But there needs to be a clear boundary and stopping point or we cannot thrive. Grief is one such season of refraining. Grief and mourning are as much a part of life as love and joy. I have experienced all of these, and likely you have as well.

What can we learn about choosing joy?

In 2 Samuel 21:1-14, we meet Rizpah, a widow of King Saul’s, who mothered two of his sons. These two sons of hers, as well as the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, were put to death for simply being his descendants. In her grief, both of losing her sons and the injustice of it, Rizpah sat vigil over those young men “from the beginning of the Harvest until rain fell on them from the heavens,” about six months. The time the Israelites established for grieving was 30 days, as in Deuteronomy 34:8 when the children of Israel grieved Moses for 30 days.

What can we learn about choosing joy? Share on X

Rizpah’s mourning far exceeded the typical 30 days and came to the attention of King David himself. King David eventually joined Rizpah on the hill where the men were slaughtered and brought the bones of both Saul and his son, Jonathan, with him. Together, Rizpah and King David gathered the bones of those who had been killed and buried them. The time of mourning and grief came to a close. They drew a boundary by “burying the bones.” They left that season behind and moved on to the next.

Rizpah seems to have needed her grief to be recognized before she could move on to joy. We all have different needs, different seasons, and different time periods for grief. All that is okay. You may wear a sackcloth, a physical symbol of grief, for a day, or you may build a tent out of it and sleep there for a season (2 Samuel 21:10). But the time comes when ashes turn to beauty, and mourning exchanged for joy (Isaiah 61:3). Sometimes we need to actively bring closure and bury the bones of what caused our grief. But eventually, the time of weeping ends and it is time to once again choose joy.

Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. 

Psalm 30:5b

Unless it doesn’t.

Sometimes we need to actively bring closure and bury the bones of what caused our grief. Share on X

When one season ends, a new season begins.

When my sister died in a car accident some 19 years ago, my weeping stayed far longer than a night and the rejoicing was a long ways away. There were some that encouraged me to stop grieving. Maybe they thought I had pitched my tent of sackcloth for too long. Perhaps my extended grief made them uncomfortable. Maybe they saw me failing to thrive.

I stayed there anyway until the King Himself came to join me. He didn’t reprimand me, drag me off the hill, or steal my sackcloth. He wept with me, just like He wept with those who loved Lazarus in John 11:1-43. Even though He knew my sister was with Him, He wept with me.

There is a time to grieve and a time for joy and for every other thing under the heavens. Each has its time and should not be denied. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 makes this pretty clear. In time, each season ends and a new season begins. Grief ends and joy comes again, eventually. In John 16:22, Jesus gave us permission to grieve and promised the season of grief will end with a joy that no one can take away.

"We are called to be like Jesus, and Jesus was called to be like the Father." Theresa Kay Share on X

You and I are called to be like Jesus, and Jesus was called to be like the Father. We are grievers, rejoicers, and followers of seasons. In Psalm 74:17 and again in Proverbs 8:29, we see God was the maker of boundaries – whether of seasons or of landmarks. So, we too can make boundaries around our seasons of life.

It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter. Psalm 74:17

When he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Proverbs 8:29

How will you answer the King’s invitation?

My season of grief has been long. Jesus coaxed me off the hill and took off my sackcloth, but the bones have still been rattling around in my pocket. Do you have bones in your pockets too? Is the King asking you to bury them with Him?

Our final season will be our best.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

I look forward to that day. Until then, for each of my griefs, I’m finally choosing to answer the King’s invitation to “bury the bones” and finish the season. I’m finally choosing to start the season of joy so I can fully thrive in my spiritual life. I hope you choose to do the same for whatever griefs you have endured. My prayer for us is that we would bear joy as one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and that “the God of hope fill[s] you us with all joy and peace as you we trust in him, so that you we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). May we choose to nourish ourselves with joy and thrive.

Therese Kay is a contemplative photographer, writer, and follower of God.  A graduate of Smith College and Columbia University, she is a life-long resident of Lynn, MA with her family. When not out taking pictures, writing or editing photos at her computer with a warm beverage within reach. Her published works include Meeting God through Art: Visio Divina and Look and See: Photographic Reflections on the Goodness of God. You can find her online at www.Theresekay.com.

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