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Advent Week Three | Joy | It’s a Choice

Rest: [Take a few moments of silence. Then slowly pray these words.]

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Read: [Meditate on the scripture of the week.]

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 | Psalm 126 | 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 | John 1:6-8, 19-28

Reflect: [Use this devotional thought for a moment of reflection.  Today’s devotional is written by Masi Willis.]

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” – Kay Warren

Advent is a season of waiting, and this week is a week of joy. Often, those words can be hard to combine. All of our lives are crazy, and mine is no different.  For me, the last eight months have been a journey – a season of surrender, submission, and choice.  At times, searching for joy was daunting and actually made me angry.  This has been a time of waiting for my family and in that…a time of choosing joy.

On April 16th, I woke up to the daunting news that my 13-year-old nephew, Matthew, had been diagnosed with the dreaded beast – cancer.  Childhood cancer, the beast of all beasts had attacked my Buddy.  I know it’s natural to say, “Oh it’s her nephew, not her child,” but let me explain. I’m single, and my niece and nephew are the closest thing I have to my own children.  They are my Doodlebug and Buddy.  As I am NOT their mom, I am the aunt who sits quietly in fervent prayer laboring for those two to change the world, impact the nations, and overwhelm the darkness with light.  So, this news was not a moment of joy.

Matthew had a cantaloupe size tumor in his pelvic area.  It was not defined and has yet to be named – but it looked, acted, felt like a certain type that the doctors said would spread to his bones, his chest and possibly other areas of this body.  The onset of chemo began and prayer warriors all over the world joined in. Chemo brought on sickness and the entire family embraced the regular sounds of it, long road trips to hospitals and treatments, and exhausting nights of little sleep.  Then came the dreaded news that Matthew needed radiation in hopes to keep shrinking the tumor.  If it didn’t get small enough, surgery would be necessary and very invasive.  So on came the doubles: 5 weeks of radiation every day and continuing the weekly chemo regimen.

On Nov 7th, Matthew went to surgery with a tumor larger than a baseball. The doctors told him that the entire tumor and surrounding bone structure would be removed in order to get clear margins.  His left leg would be completely disconnected from the pelvis, and it would require 2 years of PT before walking with a cane would be possible.  Matthew’s response, “Get it out now.  I can adjust to a new normal.”  Surgery ensued and we prayed for clear margins and a dead tumor.  It was a miraculous prayer request because that would be abnormal with this size tumor and assumed type cancer.  Then came the news: clear margins, nothing had spread, and the tumor was 99% dead.  REJOICE, REJOICE Emmanuel!  Matthew continues to face a long and likely difficult road to recovery.  But as for me and my family, we have found what it means to choose joy in the waiting.

I remember one evening when Matthew was in incredible pain, had not slept well for months, and went to lay down early.  My family and I sat in the living room, a bit overwhelmed.  We sat trying to grasp that God is in control and find the quiet confidence that no matter what – ultimately everything is alright.  Finally, my brother emphatically exclaimed, “we will choose hope and joy!”

It wasn’t an easy statement for me to hear.  I was ok with God if His will was for Matthew to live and be healed on this side of heaven.  But I confess I was not ok, not joyful or even willing for His will to be healing in some other form.  In our awaiting – being with Jesus forever is the ultimate joy.  But in my flesh, in this moment – it was not ok.

While reading Psalm 126 and thinking back over these long months, I pondered the definition of joy and was struck by verses 3-6, “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.  Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” These are powerful hopes and promises, and I’ve realized my family has chosen to do just what David cried out in this song.

Throughout this difficult journey we have chosen joy.  Sure, there have been tears and sleepless nights and aching moans. But oh can I explain the laughter.  Can I simply tell you Matthew thinks it is so cool that he is bald?  Home has felt safer for all of them and the four have marveled together over movies, dinners in, and family time. Matthew talks about the perks of the Big C and when he can milk it – he will.  And if his sister can use it – she will too!

Considering Kay’s definition of joy filtered through this scripture – I realize that we can claim “He HAS done great things, I AM filled with joy, He RESTORES, and in my tears WILL reap with songs of joy!” This is a choice for us…to confess and believe he is in control and no matter what the outcome, no matter what the future may hold – choose joy.

FormationRespond: [Put your prayer into action throughout the day.]

Many of us are struggling with very difficult situations in which the days ahead are far from clear: children on the way, preparing to tell parents and loved ones a final good bye, or even the brokenness of relationships that are waiting for reconciliation. Whatever you are waiting on today, it is possible to choose joy, not because it is a human choice but because God has provided it supernaturally through his Son.

As a simple prayer, read Psalm 126, and then pray these words aloud as a question to God: “Lord, although I do not know what the future will hold, what would it look like for me to choose joy today?”

Listen. What do you hear? What small step can you take today to choose joy?



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