Joy is a Chosen Path

Joy is something that I have had to learn to choose through the years. The following is a teaching I did for our women at church. This was done at Christmas time hence the references. I hope you find it encouraging.

The Journey of Bitterness, Forgiveness, and Joy or There and Not Going Back Again: A Haberkorn Tale

My journey begins about 2 years ago. There were some, not in this room or church I promise, who I became angry at. In the New English Translation Bitterness is in there 13 times, anger is also in there a lot but many of the passages are about God’s wrath and I didn’t count those, Joy is in there 222 times! This is my journey of bitterness, forgiveness, and joy.

Bitterness and Anger:

Most know of passages concerning Anger. One that is most quoted is:

Ephesian 4:46 ‘Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger.” It goes on to state not to give the devil an opportunity.

I did not head those words because I was justified. The offenders were wrong, and indeed when I talked to others they agreed that their actions were wrong towards me. But because I would not forgive that anger became a root of bitterness.

Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root (other translations state root of bitterness) springing up and causing trouble and through him many become defiled.”

In my bitterness, my anger, I caused trouble. Not trouble for those who I was mad at but trouble with my family and friends (who are my adoptive family).  My big “Ah-ha” moment was after I confronted those that I was mad at. Nothing was resolved at that meeting between us and to this day their old habits towards me are the same.

Forgiveness:

Let me back up to the moment of forgiveness. I tend to have my best moments with God while driving. Go figure. This was a rare time that I was actually alone in the car. He told me I had to forgive; it was very stern, like my dad talking to me. And just like a child, I argued. But then I just said the words “I forgive them” and as soon as I said that I was a waterfall of tears. A huge weight was lifted. The best way I can describe it is the scene in Pilgrims Progress when he is at the foot of the Cross and his huge pack falls off and rolls into the tomb.

Soon after my husband came to me about a friend I had hurt. I was complaining about him never being home in a mixed company of friends. These friends also owned the company he worked for at the time. Talk about not censoring my words or being loving. I apologized to my friend for making her feel so horrible. I had not meant to do that. And just then these words came from my mouth “I have been so bitter about those that have hurt me, I have hurt you. It is not an excuse for my behavior and I am so sorry.” This was my “Ah-ha” moment. I realized the trouble I had caused. I was a nagging, angry wife; I reacted to my kids instead of training them. This was my default now and not an exception in my life.

You might say to yourself, I know I did, that this anger is only towards those people, that it isn’t affecting anyone else but it is. It is poisoning you and harming those around you.

Jesus said to forgive 7 x 70 and that forgiveness should begin reconciliation. In my case it hasn’t yet but one day it might. But from experience, forgiveness was more about me and where my heart stood with God than anything else.

Joy:

Psalm 30:5 states “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

It is interesting when the verse is crossed referenced with Ephesians 4:46 that Joy comes in the Morning and anger is Gone.

Having Joy:

Many think that joy is an emotion such as happiness. This is not the case. Most joy, especially in the Psalms is directed towards God. Joy is found even in the darkest circumstances. When the Angels told the shepherds of the great “Joy to the World” it was because our spiritually dark days were soon to be over. All could enter into God’s presences because Jesus made a way. Joy is trusting God because he is, well God. It isn’t having the absence of trouble but rather focusing your thoughts towards God in those times. Ever wonder how people can have a good attitude while going through something horrible? It is a joy in the Lord that sustains them through their tears and hurt. They choose joy too reside in their hearts instead of bitterness.

Given this, I have one wish. I wish for everyone to be filled with joy. To be free of bitterness. We are free in Christ. He has taken the shackles from our lives. No longer are we imprisoned. Bitterness and anger will imprison you. Take hold of God. Live Joy! I leave you with the words to Joy to the World. This is my wish and my prayer for all of you.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare His room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sound joy

No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of is love
And wonders and wonders of His love