This is a guest post by my friend Dana Hott. Dana has been a faithful Celebrating Weakness reader and we share many things in common. I have been inspired by her decision to “Choose Joy” in the midst of challenging circumstances. I know that her story will encourage you as well. Lisa
Have you ever felt pushed to your limit? For me, the last three years of my life have been difficult…probably the most challenging years I have ever faced. My trial began in March, 2013 when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. Eight months later my precious father-in-law lost his battle from bladder cancer. As if that weren’t enough trauma in my life, my brother-in law was diagnosed with cancer and only lived for five more months. I hate cancer.
The stress of all this loss was too much for my middle-aged body and I developed shingles. The shingles led me to develop neuralgia, which is severe pain that occurs due to a damaged nerve. I’m looking to Jesus to heal me, but for now, I am taking medication to control the constant pain.
For most of my 53 years I’ve been healthy. I’ve NEVER had a chronic illness and this one threw me for a loop. I taught in an elementary school for fifteen years and I had to give up this amazing job to focus on my health. I’ve been to every specialist you can think of, changed my diet, and even tried Botox. The only benefit from Botox was that was I looked a little younger, which was fine by me.
Many have laid hands on me and prayed faith-filled prayers for my healing. It leaves me questioning if I have enough faith. While neuralgia took a physical toll on my body, my quest also came at a cost: my emotional well-being. I’ll be honest, I questioned God as to why He didn’t heal me.
Have you ever been in this same position? Have you been in a circumstance that God could easily fix, but He, for whatever reason, chose not to? We all have these unanswerable questions. I mean, come on, do any of us like being in the valleys of life? Do we enjoy being in painful places? Do we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain?
I am reminded of the Apostle Paul who also had an infirmity and prayed for God to remove it. The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul replied, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (1 Cor. 12:9)
Realizing that Paul could choose to delight in His weaknesses, I chose to do the same. I began a journey of choosing joy.
Can we find true joy in the hard times of life? The answer to that questions is ABSOLUTELY YES! I’ve always loved how God completely transformed the Apostle Paul’s life and he was sold out for Jesus after meeting Him on that Damascus Road. But Paul still went through great trials in his life. By the grace of God, He persevered regardless of his circumstances. I especially love Acts 16 which is the story of when Paul and Silas were imprisoned. After they were severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, put in the inner cell and their feet were fastened in the stocks (v. 23-24). Acts 16:25 says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”
Can you even imagine singing in prison? Roman prisons were dungeons with no fresh air or light, and Paul and Silas were chained to the walls. We find it hard to sing in our air conditioned homes while sitting on our couches, but Paul and Silas sang praises in this nasty prison while in stocks! This realization created a burning desire in my heart to decide to choose joy regardless of my circumstances. I have the power to make the decision to choose joy, no matter what. Have my circumstances changed? No, but in choosing joy, I have changed.
God has helped me to see joy in a whole different light. I felt joy listening to my Dad laugh with his hospice nurse who comes to bathe him three times a week. I found joy when my cousin was quietly playing the guitar in the room with my dying uncle, who was preparing to go meet Jesus. I discovered joy by painting my sister’s toenails and massaging her legs as she cared for her dying husband. God’s true joy comes in many forms and I pray every day that He will open my eyes to see it. Joy is there waiting for us to see it and choose it.
I don’t know if your life circumstances have you in a valley or on a mountain top but I pray that you will see God’s true, lasting joy, because when everything and everyone else are stripped away in your life, it’s all about Him.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:3
I now understand that no matter what life brings, God is so good, faithful, and nothing will ever separate us from His amazing love. So today and everyday I choose joy.
Is it always easy? Absolutely not.
Do I fail at times? Yes.
But I know God is with me and that is all I need.
Together, no matter what life brings, let’s choose joy.
Dana Hott resides in Wilmington, North Carolina with Ben, her husband of 35 years. She has two children and three grandchildren. Her heart’s desire is to make a difference in the lives of others by being transparent about her journey with the Lord. If God is able to use the difficulties we walk through to encourage others then it makes it all worthwhile. She enjoys long walks, praise and worship music, and her sweet dog Thumper.