I often have people approach me and say, “How do you stay happy like that all the time?” or “How are you always so positive, even in negative situations?” Or, perhaps my personal favorite—the questioning statement, “Pastor Sheryl how do you do it? Nobody can be that happy all the time.” I often chuckle, inwardly, before giving the same answer to all of the above, “It’s a choice...I choose joy.”
There is no magic pill, nor do I drink joy juice. If I could come up with a magic potion for either I would, and I’m sure I could make billions from it. The reality is simple, and nothing is magical about it: joy is a choice.
Are those who approach me correct when they state, “nobody can be that happy all the time”? Yes! I want to go on record and say that I am not happy all the time. In fact, I have at least two people who can testify to this...I call them “son” and “daughter." What my children can also testify to is that I have joy. Joy is more consistent than happiness, and it is cultivated internally. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are, where you are, and how you are. Happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on happenings: other people, things, places, thoughts or events. I am bold enough to say that anyone who tries to sell you the storyline that they are happy all the time, is not grounded in reality or truth.
Like many of you reading this, my happenings often influence my emotions. Negative happenings many times, evoke negative emotions. And, guess what...that’s okay. What is not okay is for me is to get stuck there, and allow those negative emotions to dictate my responses to people or situations. As Merriam Webster’s definition above states, joy is an emotion that evokes well-being (mental and physical), success or good fortune. Sign me up for all three! Why wouldn’t I choose joy?
Now, am I a natural born optimist, and generally a positive person? Absolutely. I don’t take for granted the way God made me, and I thank Him for making me the way I am. On the other hand, I am a realist and I accept negatives—people and situations—for who and what they are, and I deal with them accordingly.
I decided a long time ago, to stop allowing people and situations to dictate my responses. Notice, I did not say my reactions. It takes a highly significant level of self awareness, emotion regulation, and maturity to respond to people and situations, versus reacting to them. If you’re not there yet, pray and ask God for these three things.
Please believe me, I have experienced exceptional highs and tremendous lows on this rollercoaster called life. And, I am no different than anyone else. I am a human and life kicks me in the teeth, regularly. But, you know what...I fight back. And guess what my most effective weapons are: my faith and choosing joy. (Psalm 118:24, Galatians 5:22-23). Joy is most definitely a choice; one that I intentionally choose daily. With so many choices in this life, why not choose joy?
“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” -Marianne Williamson