My friend — and fellow (in)courage writer — Sara Frankl passed away in 2011, but she is still teaching me about choosing joy.
As I worked on the book that tells her story and shares her message of hope and joy, I was amazed and moved to read about the incredible strength Sara drew from her faith. That inner strength allowed her to withstand immeasurable pain both physical and emotional — and to choose joy through it all. I invite you to read an excerpt of our book today, where Sara and I share a common question — How DO you choose joy? — and her answer.
If there’s one phrase Sara used most often in her blog, it was, “I am so blessed, people.” I lost count of the times she began a post giving an update on the latest hard thing in her life, something that had me in tears and would bring the strongest person to her knees, and still wrapped up her thoughts with, “I’m so blessed.”
My reaction to that kind of gratitude and joy, more often than I’d like to admit, was astonishment. “Who DOES that?” I’d ask my computer screen. Though I was talking to myself each time that happened, I wasn’t alone. Family, friends, and blog readers alike found Sara’s joy unfathomable at times, and wanted to know how she managed to stay so positive.
I talk a lot about being grateful and choosing the joy. And we’ve talked a lot about different ways to keep that focus in our lives. But I don’t just plop my feet on the floor every day and see sunshine and rainbows because I’ve chosen to live a happy life regardless of circumstance. It’s not quite that simple – but I realized that in all my talk about this, I have never mentioned the number one thing I do to stay positive, keep my joy, and focus on gratitude.
I ask God to help me make the choice.
I seriously about slapped my hand to my forehead and gave myself a V-8. I can’t believe I forgot to tell you my step one, the step that matters! I want to make sure you all know that before I’m able to make the decision to choose joy, before I am able to look at that silver lining I’m always grasping to see, before I can stop and see the blessing in the midst of the rubble, I am asking Him to open my eyes.
I’m asking Him to change my heart, to change my vision, to create the desire in me to be joyful when I want to close my eyes to all that surrounds me. I close my eyes and open my heart and ask the One who is the only answer. I ask Him to help me. Today, as my pain was crazy and my soul was tired and the exhaustion clouded my mind, I asked Him to allow me to be the person He made me to be. I asked the One who gives us everything to help me see everything the way He sees everything.
I also remember that this life is not about me and choose to give thanks to the God who loves me. That is what keeps my spirits up. It’s my focus on praising instead of dwelling on my own circumstances. It’s not always easy, but it is something I have to choose to do if I am going to live the life He needs me to.
When things are going smoothly, when things are difficult, when life is in that in-between we don’t know what to do with, the fact remains that God is good all the time. And that is worth praising Him for. That knowledge, that belief, and that attitude of praise is what shapes who we can be in this life for Him.
He knows my past, present, and future. He is surprised by nothing. He is with me, never leaves me even when I feel alone, and holds me up even when I think I am standing on my own two feet. He is good. All the time. I am going to ask Him to help me see that, and I will praise Him through all of it.
If you enjoyed this excerpt from Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts, you can purchase your own copy at the DaySpring store or read more about the book and its authors at TheChooseJoyBook.com.
Sara Frankl passed away in 2011 at the age of 38, but her legacy of choosing joy lives on. Known as “Gitzen Girl” or “Gitz,” Sara was a writer and an artist, a doting aunt and godmother, and a devoted fan of frozen Oreos, cute jeans, Harry Potter marathons, and the inspiring quotes she used to cover canvases, blog posts, and her walls. Though an autoimmune disease stripped Sara of the potential for a family and a future, she didn’t let that stop her from developing deep relationships through online communities that, even today, are inspired by her message of hope. Sara learned — and then shared — that a life full of joy is a matter of choice and no painful circumstance can take that from us. You can read Sara’s story on her blog, Gitzen Girl, and support her ministry with the Choose Joy Foundation.
Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life, at GivingUpOnPerfect.com. She is also a regular contributor to (in)courage.me, MomAdvice.com, and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.