I think I may have finally figured it out. After all these years of being told and having read that the joy of the Lord is our strength (in the book of Nehemiah), I think I might just understand what that means. Up until recently, my head knew the words but I didn't really know how to access a strength that came from this joy.
Oh I have believed that God has given me strength over time but I think I may well have missed out on strength available to me but not accessed because of my own choices. I think the understanding of this truth lies at the same crossroads where we make these kinds of choices between joy...or something else.
Recently I have been inspired to choose joy. There are some remarkable people in this world who have lived some pretty difficult lives, walked some challenging roads and yet you'd never know it by their demeanor. They exude joy. This inspires me to do the same, even when I don't feel like it. Especially when I don't feel like it.
Here is my theory. If, at the end of the day, a hard life is what is and what remains, would I not rather be joyful along the way than miserable? And maybe, just maybe, a hard life might be a little less hard when joy is present.
Knowing I can actually choose joy in the midst of chaos is necessary. Reaching for God's grace to choose the joy that He provides, and resulting strength, is key.
This week I saw the connection...for real! I decided to choose joy and decided again and again as I came to that same intersection where choice lay many times in one day. The days were better. Circumstances didn't necessarily change but the days were better. I felt stronger, less overwhelmed by some significant challenges.
I have also felt joy. Finally understanding truth and how to apply it to my life has a way of contributing to that! A little further in the passage in Nehemiah where the joy of the Lord being our strength is mentioned (see above link), we read how choosing joy and understanding God's Word did bring joy...for real!