New Year, New Joy

Does your family have a special motto or saying? Maybe you have a treasured Scripture verse or a favorite quote that describes your family dynamics to a tee. Peter recently bought me a pillow for our couch with this saying stitched on it: Our family must be God’s favorite sitcom. Yep. Some days it feels just like that.

For the past few years, I have felt the Lord prompting me to choose a Scripture verse to claim over our family at the beginning of each new year.  I sometimes feel the Lord placing a theme in my heart for the upcoming year and then I search and pray until I find a verse that coincides with that theme. The first year I did this, in 2014, I felt God tell me He was about to do something new in our family. I kept sensing the theme of renewal and refreshment. The scripture He led me to was Isaiah 43:18-19, which said this: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” I was able to watch this verse come to fruition as we quit dwelling on  Jonah’s autism and instead focused on the Lord pulling him from his autism bit by bit.

The verse for 2015 was Jude 2 – “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” I felt that our family needed this verse as we dealt with a possible move (which ultimately didn’t happen), Jonah’s struggles as he entered school full time, Brie entering middle school, and Vivi’s strong-willed nature. And of course we had no idea a deployment would be thrown at us in 2015 too. We have definitely needed some mercy and peace to get us through the chaos of this past year.

For 2016, I have been sensing one theme over and over. That theme is joy. What comes to mind when you hear the word “joy?” For some people, this word reminds them of happiness. But in reality, those two emotions don’t always go hand in hand. It is possible to have joy without feeling happy. Merrian-Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” While this may be one definition of joy, the biblical definition consists of much more.

Theopedia defines joy as “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope.”

I love that this definition includes the words “a settled state of contentment.” You see, we have a choice in the matter. Despite our circumstances, we can choose joy. We can choose to emanate contentment in the midst of chaos. As Christians, we should always carry joy around with us because Christ lives within us. According to Galatians 5:22-23, joy is a characteristic of living in the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

But to be honest, sometimes it is difficult to find joy. When we experience suffering and desperation, joy is hard to come by. During our long adoption journey, we experienced two failed adoptions, which were heartbreaking. Jonah’s autism diagnosis was also devastating for our family. Just recently, we learned of some friends who were on the brink of adopting three foster children, but at the last minute those children were taken from them and sent to live with a distant relative. Life is hard, y’all. It can be especially difficult to find joy in these types of agonizing circumstances.

Jen Hatmaker once wrote, “Sometimes people suffer because we have a vicious enemy who hates us and is out to steal, kill, and destroy everything redemptive and beautiful.” Satan is merciless and evil. He wants to steal our joy. But if we have Christ living in us, he can’t take it away. Sometimes we may have difficulty emanating joy, but if we choose to rely on the Holy Spirit, our joy can shine through even the most demanding or wearisome circumstances.

So the verse I feel that God has laid upon my heart for 2016 is this:

“And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52 (NASB)

You see, if we are Christ-followers, then we are His disciples. This means that we accept and believe Christ, and we share His teachings with others. We strive to be like Jesus, to live like Him, and to love like He does. And the only way we are able to do this is with the help of the Holy Spirit. We must live according to His Spirit and allow Him to guide our lives, our reactions, minute by minute.

Life gets crazy sometimes, doesn’t it, mamas? Kids bicker, discipline is difficult, carpool duties are exhausting, and the housework never ends. To be honest,  those mundane, tedious days are often the most difficult times for me to exude joy. But my kids need to see my joy in the midst of the chaos and pandemonium. They need me to model how to be joyful in all circumstances. (And admittedly, I’m not very good at this.)

So, as 2016 kicks off, I will remind myself of this year’s Scripture and I will strive to be “continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” When life gets overwhelming, I will breathe in and allow Christ to infuse my soul with his joy and peace. I will continually fill myself with the Holy Spirit as I seek to live like Jesus.

I challenge you to begin this year by praying and asking the Lord to show you a theme or scripture for your family as well. He is faithful, friends. He is faithful.

 

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