Sunday, Dec. 15 – Cindy Swicegood

15 Dec

Sunday, Dec. 15 – Joy

Today’s Scripture:
Psalm 126; Habakkuk 3:17-19; James 1:2-8

Joy to the world–the Lord is come!

Would you like to have more joy in your life?  Who wouldn’t?!  Today’s verses seem to indicate that joy comes to us in at least two ways—as a result of God’s will and as a conscious choice of our own will.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  (Psalm 126:3)  We have all experienced cause-and-effect joy through receiving blessings from the Lord.  Joy is also an inexplicable fruit of the Spirit, given simply because our Father chooses to bless us with it!  When we spend time in His presence, He often chooses to fill us with joy.  You will fill me with joy in your presence (Psalm 16:11).  Lastly, joy is within our capacity to choose—a matter of our will.  Though [all manner of difficulties arise], yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  (Habakkuk 3:17-18)  Let’s consider this more difficult path to joy—our deliberate choosing, regardless of our circumstances.

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting Ela Weissberger, a survivor of Terezin (the “model” concentration camp where Hitler filmed his propaganda film, intending to show the world how well the Nazis were “taking care of” the Jews).  Ela said her teachers in Terezin helped the children survive by giving them perspective.  “Children, look up.  It’s a beautiful day!  Beyond those mountains is hope for you to survive.”

The oldest Holocaust survivor, concert pianist Alice Herz-Sommer (who turned 110 in November and still practices the piano three hours every day!), shares this perspective:  “The world is wonderful—full of beauty and full of miracles.”  When asked about her longevity, Herz-Sommer replied, “I am looking for the nice things in life. I know about the bad things, but I look only for the good things.  It is up to us [a matter of our will—we can choose] whether we look at the good or the bad.”  Look at the good—and choose joy!

Research in neuro-psychology confirms Herz-Sommer’s observations.  When you look at the good, it grows “more joy, calm, and strength inside you.” (Rick Hanson in Hardwiring Happiness)  The neural pathways in our brains are literally shaped by our habits of thought.  Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Alice Herz-Sommer says, “I think about the good. That takes a lot of practice.”  Practice thinking about the good—and choose joy!

This morning I began to think, “If I were put in a concentration camp today, what would sustain me?”  These words from Nehemiah 8:10 came to me:  Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.  Our daughter Stephanie has required constant care for over two years.  Although nothing to compare with being in a concentration camp, it has not been easy.  However, God has not only strengthened and sustained me; He has enabled me to have joy.  The joy of the Lord is your strength.  I will be joyful in God my Savior.  Consider Jesus’ coming—and choose joy!

-Cindy Swicegood

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