Have you ever taken a personality test? I love those. I love any kind of “dig into who you are” tests. Meyers-Briggs. Yes. Random surveys in the mail? Yes. I don’t know – I just get a kick out of them. Anyway, the last one I really remember taking separated people into four different types (or a blend of those four types.) I don’t really remember much about the other three types, but I sure can tell you mine.
Melancholy. I think a lot, read a lot, analyze a lot. And I find joy hard to grasp. Because a lot of times I see the negative first – you know, glass-half-empty.
I’m super fun at parties. Ahem. Ok, to be fair, I do have a sense of humor, but in a real-life situation that calls for choosing joy over whining/worrying/imagining the worst case scenario, well, I tend toward the latter.
Here’s the thing – joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is something we’re given when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us. But we have the ability to choose it or to squelch it.
I usually squelch it. I definitely don’t seek or choose it. I’ve never written a post about joy… In fact, when it comes to joy, I need to begin with “Lord, please help me want to look for a reason to be joyful in this situation,” because it’s easier for me to whine and complain.
Enter Choose Joy, my friend Mary Carver’s book written with/about her dear friend, Sara Frankl. The best way to explain it is to quote from the inside flap:
Sara Frankl knew she had a terminal disease, but she didn’t let it stop her from living. In the face of immeasurable pain, Sara chose joy–again and again. Her unforgettable message of hope and purpose lives on, even after her death, in her words.CHOOSE JOY is a compilation of the lessons Sara learned while she was dying, written in her own words and sewn together by her close friend Mary Carver. It is a reminder to see the beauty in life, even when it looks nothing like you hoped or planned.In a world full of tragedy, choosing joy is no small task–but, as Sara knew, the importance lies in the choosing. Once you learn to make that choice, every day, no matter what happens, joy will come.
I’m kind of speechless about this book. I’m learning so much reading it that I don’t know where to begin. But I’ll try.
1) The suffering of others
This isn’t the primary point of Choose Joy, but it has opened my eyes to what people with chronic pain go through. It has increased my compassion toward those who are confined to their homes for one reason or another. It has made me realize that I need to look outside of myself and my little world more. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the details of my life, and I want to be more aware of people around me who need encouragement.
2) I coddle myself
I’ll just say it – I’m a whiner. Sara was in pain all the time. And as time went on she wasn’t able to breathe outside air without severe physical consequences. Her body just couldn’t deal with it. I complain because I have so much housework to do. Sara worked to find joy in her circumstances. Circumstances that were increasingly challenging. It certainly wasn’t easy for her, but she chose to do the work of finding joy:
I choose the joy. When something is going badly and I’m dwelling on it, I think instead of something for which I am grateful. I swear to you, it’s as simple as that. You just have to decide today, and again tomorrow. And before you know it, you’ll have an attitude of joy more than any other attitude you have at your disposal. (p. 27)
3) Change is on the other side of suffering
Emotionally, a hole can be dug inside us so deep that it seems everything good has been excavated from our lives […] It’s in those moments that I pray for God to get me out of His way. It’s in those moments that I stop praying for what I want and start praying for Him to change my heart for what He wants. […] That doesn’t change my physical pain. It doesn’t change the loss. It doesn’t improve my earthly situation. But it does change the suffering. (p.38)
Books play a huge role in my life. And there are certain books that have been absolutely pivotal in my journey through miscarriage. Choose Joy is turning out to be one of them.
I believe joy is the next piece in healing and recovery for me.
Some might think this book is only for those going through intense physical difficulties.
I say this book is for everyone. Because everyone, at one point or another, will experience loss of some kind. It may be losing a job. It may be losing a loved one. It may be losing health. It may be losing the dream of what you thought life would be.
When (not if, WHEN) that happens, we get to choose how we will respond.
Sara’s life is an arrow pointing to joy.
Choose Joy is available for preorder now, and will be released on January 5, 2016.