Dear God, Why does joy seem so easy for others, but so hard for me?
Then God whispered . . . let me tell you a story
Of how joy is meant for you too, Beloved.
Ever feel this way too? I asked God this question recently and I was curious how He’d answer me.
As I approached the new year, a word popped into my head I never associated with myself before. Joy. Sure, I’ve had beautiful moments of joy in my life with God, my friends, and family. But choosing joy intentionally to experience it for myself? To give myself permission to swim in it? Hmm . . . for me, this idea of choosing joy is like visiting Mars. Unchartered territory.
The word joy feels like odd-fitting clothes to wear every day. Yes, I might take it out once in a while as occasion dictates. But, wait – you want me to choose joy as an everyday experience, God? I turned around to see if God meant to place this word on somebody else’s heart.
You know me, God. I’m the responsible one. The organized one, take care of everyone else, the worry-wart, the nerdy-be-content-and-don’t-make-waves one, the recovering people pleaser.
But, it seemed every time I’d brush the word “joy” away, it felt like a little dandelion puff that wouldn’t leave my fingers. No matter how hard I tried to blow it away, the word “joy” just stayed with me.
Could joy be something you’re longing for more of this year too?
Ever feel this way too? I asked God recently why joy was so hard for me – and He answered me by telling me a story about a tree and someone like me. I hope it inspires you as it did me – because I unexpectedly cried reading it after baring my heart.
I usually read the story of Zacchaeus as being about someone who doesn’t know Jesus, to illustrate how Jesus loves everyone, or as a Bible story for kids.
But, as I read about Zacchaeus during quiet time, a story from my childhood surfaced and I heard Jesus whisper to me, as He whispered to Zacchaeus, “Hurry down from your tree! I’m coming to YOUR house”.
In other words, Jesus wants me to come into the hiding places of my heart where I’ve been waiting for joy.
Do you ever feel you hide your heart waiting for joy, too?
I’m guessing Zacchaeus figured the best he could get to joy was to be up in a tree to watch it all happen to others – and experience it vicariously.
And suddenly, I felt I was perched up in that tree too. I’ve always felt the best I could do with joy – the closest I could get – was looking out at others experiencing joy so easily with Jesus – and being happy for them.
But, when Jesus said, “Come down from the tree right away. I’m going to YOUR house today!” (Luke 19:5 paraphrased) – I suddenly noticed for the first time what Zacchaeus did in response!
The Bible tells us Zacchaeus WELCOMED Jesus with JOY!
He took action to choose joy (not tomorrow, not later, but today!) in front of his critics! The Scriptures say Zaccheus HURRIED DOWN and got out of that tree!
Not only that, people around them were GRUMBLING! So, although we may have inner critical voices when we choose joy – it’s too late, don’t be dumb, what’re you thinking, you’re going to fail, it’s a waste of time — or you may have real people in your life who judge you for choosing joy until x, y, z conditions are met, Jesus doesn’t care about those voices.
Jesus is radical. Jesus makes a beeline to you and declares, “I’m here for you! Come down. Choose joy with me!” Can you imagine the loving eyes of Jesus gazing up at you, smiling with a twinkle, and calling you to come down and choose joy with him!?
Let’s be like Zacchaeus, running down from our tree to choose joy, friends!
“Joy does not simply happen to us.
We have to choose joy
And keep choosing it every day.”
Dare to choose what gives you joy, no matter how the new year is shaping up – because the God who loves you takes your hand to choose joy, regardless of how things appear. Jesus stands by your side to whisper, You are worth it. You are worth the joy you long for. You are my beloved.
The world only allows us to choose joy if we deserve it, earn it, or have the right looks, family, friends, success, connections, money, or possessions.
But, Jesus sees into your heart and whispers, You are my home. You are my joy. You are my crowning beauty. My place of love.
I hope you’ll choose joy in a new and deeper way. I am learning to be reckless choosing joy, tumbling down from the tree like Zacchaeus when he thought the best he could do was watch other people have joy, watching from afar.
As I explore what it means to choose joy and live a meaningful life as God’s beloved, I’ll be sharing what I learn about joy this year in my online Whispers of Rest Book Club FB Group , on my blog, Facebook, and Instagram. Will you join me?
I’m going to come down from my be-invisible-tree and WELCOME Jesus with JOY in as many ways as possible.
“It’s okay to have limits. It’s okay to not be all things
To all people all of the time
All by ourselves.”
Here are Three Choose-Joy Lessons I’ve learned so far:
Lesson #1: It’s okay to have limits. Say no, so you can say yes to joy.
Are you saying yes to everyone but you? Say yes. Be you. God tenderly whispers, Don’t hide your heart anymore.
For all the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:20 (Berean Study Bible)
If you valued yourself the way God intended for you to be loved, what would you say yes to? Whose song are you singing? Is it your song?
Lesson #2: What’s urgent to others isn’t urgent to you.
You have what it takes. In every way that truly matters. You have love. But when we’re stressed by many to-do’s because we’re afraid to let others down or FOMO (fear of missing out), we miss out on what gives us joy – in the ways God uniquely made us to experience it.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you…By his divine power, God has given us everything we need… 2 Peter 1:2-3 (Berean Study Bible)
Lesson #3: Rather than people pleasing, move towards peace or joy.
I need to remember this, so I wrote this little Note To Myself —
Instead of people pleasing,
what if you move towards
what brings you peace or joy?
What if God wanted your heart
more than your work?
Hear God whisper,
your heart is my mission field
what’s urgent to others
doesn’t have to be urgent to you
be my beloved.
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you… Isaiah 43:2 (ISV)
I was thinking of sharing these #notestomyself in the new year and maybe it can bring a smile and sunshine to your heart too! Does it encourage you too? I’ll be sharing more about how to spark joy in my online Whispers of Rest Book Club FB Group and on my blog, so join me there!
Let’s choose joy, friends!
How is God inspiring you to choose joy this year?
By Bonnie Gray, author of the new 40-day devotional detox Whispers of Rest: 40 Days of God’s Love to Revitalize Your Soul.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
This is a beautiful post. I admit that sometimes I’m hesitant to choose joy, because what if unexpectedly it’s taken from me and I’m left brokenhearted. But, the joy of the Lord, is not based on circumstances so it will never leave me. People might, but not the joy of the Lord. I’ve gotten better with lesson #1 Saying No, but I am hesitant to ask for help when I need it. I need to drop the self sufficiency and learn to be humble and ask. #2. Oh the tyranny of the urgent. I need to keep my eyes focused on Christ and not let them be pulled away from Him and the joy He offers by every crisis that comes down the pike. Some things can wait . I need to get better at prioritizing. #3. Just as we cannot serve two masters, we cannot please God and please others on an equal basis. In fact, I really need to work on living my life to an audience of One. (And care less what the critics say). Awesome thoughts to chew on this am and you have me inspired to take the steps I need to take in order to choose joy.
Blessings to you,
Little Mary says
“Just as we cannot serve two masters, we cannot please God and please others on an equal basis.” Amen! I also struggle with trying to please everyone and do everything just right for everyone and missing out on the joy I could have by just focusing on what God wants of me right here right now!
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
Have a joyful day, everyone!
Oh i get it friend! All this and more Joy is hard sometimes when it just takes saying yes to Jesus. Joy I choose to say yes to this week… going to lunch for my birthday on Friday with two girls friends. Remember when you first suggested this several years ago?! I will do this every year now. It brings me such Joy and rest. Both are hard for me to choose but I am learning! Love you Bonnie!
I love this. I’m so glad that God uses other people’s struggles for my good, and that He is using my struggles to help someone else down the road. Joy has been on my mind specifically lately. I got a taste of His joy and now I want it again. I want to choose it. Looking forward to joining your Facebook group and choosing joy with you!
Michele Morin says
That imagery of Zaccheus hurrying down from his tree of invisibility in order to choose joy is just gorgeous, and I know it will stick with me. Thank you for entering into that familiar story and coming out with a fist full of fresh insights!
Jennifer biggs says
This is amazing I’ve been reading the bible every night and feel now that I’m. Calling. God he is calling me. I hope too have joy. Amen
Thank you for your ‘joyful’ sharing – I am so blessed to feel deep joy in my heart every day!
A beautiful thoughtful post-Bonnie! Thank you for the reminder of choosing joy. We aren’t promised an easy life but we have the source of all joy within our hearts as believers in Jesus Christ. Happy New Year, my friend.
Blessings and love,
Carol L. Gonzalez says
Mary Williams says
Perfect devotion for me today! My word this year is “Intentional” as it encompasses so much about my life, my kids, job, husband, work and walk with Christ. Thank you for sharing!
That is my word too, Mary! But I admit I am struggling a bit as to applying it to my life. But the year is still young!
Kelly Wilson Mize says
Intentional thankfulness is so worth the effort, I think. Thank you so much, Mary! ❤️
Kelly Wilson Mize says
Sorry, commented on the wrong post. I apologize!
Carol L. Gonzalez says
I really appreciate you saying what is urgent to someone else is not necessarily urgent to me.
Today my husband left the house super early for a meeting. So I have the house to myself and some peace and quiet. I have plans for the day-to mop my kitchen floor, etc.! But I find joy because since I have the house to myself I can do things at my pace but probably get them done in a very timely fashion so at the end of the day I can feel I really accomplished something today, and that is a reason, to me, to feel joyful 🙂
Little Mary says
Awesome! Have a successful and joyful day!
I’m going to print this out, laminate it and carry it with me, and read it over and over every day. I struggle so much, because I don’t believe that I deserve to have joy. So, when I do snag pieces of it, guilt rips it away.
Little Mary says
Dear Tracy, you DO deserve joy! You are a beloved child of God, and He rejoices in you! He wants you to have joy in Him as well, and to be able to radiate that joy out to others! I’m sure He will put His joy in your heart if you ask Him to and strive to keep your eyes on Him! The more we read His word, the more we will realize what a gracious, loving and beautiful Lord we have! And we will rejoice in Him! No matter the circumstances. It’s possible!
Loved this!!! I especially loved how Jesus met you in a new way in the story of Zaccheus! That is the way that the Scriptures are living and they can change us! Also, as I face a decision today I was very struck by your 3 lessons. I’m wondering if God led me here today to be reminded of those 3 beautiful lessons… and to let me know that it is ok to say ‘no’. Thanks!!
Lisa McElhinny says
Amen. Love the Henri Nouwen quote too! Have a joyful day in the LORD!
frances wriston says
reading this has opened my eyes to feel more joy. i tend to look at it as something in the past and not here enough. i do know it is a neglect in myself.. reaching old age and seeing so much passing by i tend to be there if needed and give what i have but feel the joy is short lived. was easy to watch from afar and be glad for others who seem to be so happy. i know God loves me and wants me to be filled with love,happiness and joy. so this new year i will look for it. thank you
Lila Lambert says
what a wonderful Godincident…Joy is my word for 2018…I just heard God speak it to me…and now this….it fits perfectly into my year of choosing Joy…thanks and God bless
Your words always have a way of deeply touching me, thank-you for once again writing words that do this.
Christine Marie says
This has been a lovely and welcoming reminder. I struggle with feeling, expressing and just overall keeping joy in my heart. There have been several moments in the past few months when I have felt joy welling up inside of me and because of the loss I have experienced this year I felt guilty for feeling joyful. I knew that this was not of God so I did my best to let joy take over. I am still working on it but your words are going to help me continue this process. I am printing out this post as I type this and will be referring back to it again and again. Thank you Bonnie ♥
Carol L. Gonzalez says
Christine Marie in 2016 we lost a 20 year old cat-but not too unexpected for a cat to die at that age. Then last year our 10 year old cat got very sick and we had to have her put to sleep and just a short time later our 7 year old cat also fell ill and we had to have her put to sleep also so I know about loss. In my case I still have three cats but also because my husband and I are in our early 60’s I really would have to think about adopting another fur baby and if I did it probably would not be a kitten, which makes me feel a little sad.
Kendra Isaacs says
It never ceases to amaze me how God speaks through others to accomplish what He wants to change in my life! You described me perfectly in your post today! I’ve been up in that tree for way too long, observing others living out their joy in the Lord! Yet lately God has been teaching me that to live a happy, joyful life, I need to come on down and welcome Jesus into my home and heart on a daily basis!! I need to stop observing and experience the joy in everyday living for myself! Thank you so much for this beautiful, encouraging post today! It was just what God wanted me to read! Blessings and hugs!
I love the thought of *us* being Jesus’ joy. I’ve never considered that perspective before, Bonnie. He gets more sweet every time I look. Choosing to receive more of His joy this year too. I pray your 2018 is blessed beyond January’s limited understanding. ((hug))
Patty Baummer says
My word this year is JOY!! I didn’t choose it for myself, it kind of keeps popping up! I have decided this year to try to be more positive and turn my negative thoughts around into positives. Choosing JOY is also on the top of my list! And I know that the only place I can find that is in walking closely with my Lord. Over the last couple of years I have grown and matured in my faith. My favorite time of day now is as soon as I wake up, grab my coffee, and open my Bible to spend time with the One I love so much! Thank you for sharing this today!
Nancy Kourmoulis says
Joy is my 2018 word and I have been hesitate to own it for fear the joy would not come. But it’s God’s word to me so I surrender to His wisdom and start searching for joy. Your words today are beautiful!! Just the encouragement needed to let it come, to choose joy despite my fears. All the comments are so encouraging as well. I will be following along to see what the Lord teaches you as He is teaching me. Joyfullly, Nancy
Rebecca L Jones says
I choose joy because I choose Jesus. I used to hear Jesus, others, yourself. Putting yourself last does not equal joy. It should be Jesus and you, then you’re able to give to others. Love ya’ Bonnie, you are so inspiring.
Wonderful writing on joy, Bonnie! And love the story you shared! I see I can stay in the tree rather than say yes and join the joy. I think God is inspiring to be okay with what makes me joyful, instead of moving toward what I think I ‘should’ be in security. May your year be full of much joy that you continue to spread out to the world!
MArgaret Carey says
Oh Bonnie…what an amazing message to me. I have printed it so I can paste it into my journal. It is all sooooo relevant to me today. I have been so busy people pleasing and doing doing doing and not building into me that I am depleted run down and wrung out. I feel like I have been through a washing machine and wringer and hung out to dry without smoothing out the wrinkles and not pegged up properly so I have plopped on the ground in a very awkward way and covered in dust…….but God has recently said to me that He has me in His hands….He is smoothing out the wrinkles….brushing me off, cleaning me up and making me like new. Except……I don’t know how to live like new….this new life God has given me…a life of serving God from the mission field of my heart instead of programs. I have had a time of resting and being renewed but it is so hard to learn to live in it. Today I realise it is time to stop resting in that tree where I feel safe from the eyes of others and the needs of others and to climb on down. Yes Jesus wants to bring Joy back to me….joy of the every day but at the moment I am that wide eyed little girl just surveying the world around me and wondering what is next and where to go….what to do…..like I am standing in a foreign place that I don’t know. After reading this I know now Jesus wants me to head home to where there is familiarity and love and meaning because He is waiting there for me….in my family home and He just wants me to wear His presence wherever I go from there. I guess I need to learn to live in the moment…to live day by day with no schedules and no full diary and no need to fill every minute of my day because that makes me feel useful and like I am worthwhile…and it is OK to sit a while in the sun with a cup of tea in hamd and to marvel at how good God is.
Beth Williams says
Great post with an awesome analogy! I used to be a people pleaser. Wanting everyone to be happy-they nay have been but I wasn’t. Lately life has been hard. Had to quit a good full-time job & care take for my dad for 16 months. He died March of last year. God gave me a good part-time job in the interim. Now my in-laws are having major medical issues. Add to all this my husband has a stressful job that he doesn’t like. It has taken its toll on us.
Thankfully he’s had some away from the hospital & is less stressed. I have started saying yes more now that I have time. But I do limit it to only things I want to do. What others say is important doesn’t always matter to me. I worry about my people & myself. I believe God wants me to have joy & peace this year! I have decided to choose joy this year!
Have a blessed year everyone!!
This made me smile! I don’t have a lot of joy, so this was a good reminder!
“The world only allows us to choose joy if we deserve it, earn it, or have the right looks, family, friends, success, connections, money, or possessions. But, Jesus sees into your heart and whispers, You are my home. You are my joy. You are my crowning beauty. My place of love.” This is great! I love your note to yourself too.
For a few years, though, I have wondered: why are people now asked to *choose* joy? It’s a fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is something that grows naturally. Trees and plants don’t have to choose to grow fruit — they just do. So yes, choosing joy is hard for me because I expect it to come naturally. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, that’s when I feel that something is wrong spiritually, or else that fruit would be just be growing there naturally, spontaneously … like on a tree.
Linda Schutte says
I have ordered your book. I pray it might help me with returning to a place of peace! I can remember it and I feel Him calling me, pray with me that I get there! It has been a rough couple of years! I love what you have said and it has touched my heart! Thank you!
Thank you for this encouragement. I truly needed this at this time. It is so hard to choose joy and to not be consumed with what people need or obligations that we feel we must do. We simply must trust in God and let go for it has never been about us but about Him.
Nancy Ruegg says
Thank you, Bonnie, for this new lesson from an old, familiar story. Like Zacchaeus, we can hasten into the joyous presence of Jesus and ignore the grumbling voices in our heads. I, too, want to choose joy moment by moment in 2018 and beyond!
This is wonderful! My “one word” for this year is Joy! So I thank you so much to let God speak to me through you. Yes, it’s something I get to choose!
Polly Anna says