The right thing isn't always the easy thing. The right thing isn't always the natural thing. The right thing isn't always our first instinct, our go-to response or the burning desire of our heart. Sometimes, many times, the right thing is the hard thing. Often times, taking the "high" road means climbing a steep mountain. Let's face it, we'd rather have the ease of a flat surface in which to tread. The uphill climb looks like work.
It is at these plentiful moments in life that we come to an intersection requiring us to make a distinct decision. We have a choice: will we do the difficult, right thing? Or will we go with our human, natural instinct - the wrong thing, the easy way out? Will we take the road with the steep elevation or will we keep our incline at a comfortable zero?
In life we are faced with this choice over and over again. We come to these T-intersections with great frequency. Take, for example, following a workout routine. Some mornings we might wake up and have little to no motivation to hit the gym. On our schedule for the day's workout is a list of exercises and targeted muscle groups but we aren't "in the mood." Now we have a choose. Do we stay home, giving into the lazy part of our flesh that wants to stay on the couch, wrapped in a warm blanket? Or do we buck up and do that which we promised ourselves we would, the thing that will benefit our body and keep us faithful to our plan?
The choose may seem small and insignificant. What's one workout? You can skip one day, right? After all it's Saturday and I worked out during the week and now I should have the weekend off to relax - I deserve it. And plus, I'm just not feeling like it. I don't want to have to drive to the gym and I'd really rather not get all sweaty. I just showered last night. The list could go on and on. There is never a shortage of excuses when we humans are looking for a way out.
Little does the gym-skipper know, but that one decision can have a domino effect. How much easier is it to justify a missed workout during the week if you've had practice justifying the same inaction on the weekend? Before you know it the routine that was once a staple of your weekly agenda becomes an inconsistent occurrence that takes place when the time "feels right."
Life, if it is to be lived with any consistency and purpose at all cannot be lived by feeling alone. It is inevitable that there are going to be days that we don't "feel" like doing anything. Some days we won't feel like being joyful. Some days we won't feel like going to work. Some days we won't feel like cooking healthy meals. Some days we won't feel like listening to our friends burdens. Some days we won't feel like going to church. Some days we won't feel like doing our workout. And on and on and on.
If we rely on our feelings to dictate our actions we will be on a perpetual roller coaster. Our actions and emotions will be as unpredictable as the wind, as changing as the tide. Letting our emotions run the show is a sure-fire way to have a bumpy ride through life, complete with the sudden turns, whip-blash inducing twists and more jerking about then you might think your body can take.
This is no way to go through life. God created us for something greater. He is offering us a way to avoid this up and down, twisting and turning emotional roller coaster. The question is, will we take Him up on the offer - will we tap into the abundant joy only found in Him?
This way of living is a choice, not a feeling. In other words, it is intentional. Instead of allowing our emotions to choose our attitude and actions for us we must be the one to decide. We must choose obedience and Godly living. We must choose the joy and peace God has made available to us. These things won't just happen to us with any regularity. If we wait for joy to come to us it will be temporary and inconsistent at best. To have real joy that is a hallmark of our lives we must decide that we will be joyful. We must choose to fill ourselves with God's joy.
With this truth weighing heavily on my mind I came up with a mantra of sorts to put into practice for myself when I am beginning to let my mood run off with my emotions. "Choose your attitude, don't let it choose you." There are days that I slip into a depressed state because I start looking at the things I don't have or the struggles I am facing. I see the steep mountain and I immediately start seeing the pain associated with the climb. But that is all emotional and feeling dependent. When I put on my emotional lenses I first had to take off God's lens of joy and peace.
It is quite simply really, God wants to fill you and I with His joy. He doesn't want our inconsistent emotions to have free reign. He wants to replace our fleshly feelings for His holy joy. He has given us every reason to rejoice and He wants us to claim that and live it out to the fullest.
Psalm 32:11 tells us to, "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart."
This attitude of thanksgiving, praise and joy is always available for all of us. We must simply take hold of it. When we come to that T in the road we must make the turn toward joy, not toward our unstable emotions. We can step off the roller coaster and onto stable ground if we choose to be rooted in the promises and truths of God instead of the wavering and ever-changing emotions and circumstances of our lives.
Beloved, upright in heart, today and everyday, choose joy. Choose the hard thing. Climb the steep mountain. Get off the emotional roller coaster. Take hold of that which God is offering to you. Take hold of His joy. One thing is certain, you will never second guess a life lived with a joyful heart.