by Heather Bock
My life is full. My life is busy. My life can be quite difficult at times. Sometimes under the stress of it all and when everything becomes challenging, I can find my joy slipping away. Even as a born optimist, the negatives can flash such bright lights that it’s hard not to focus on them. However, how important it is to keep the fruit of joy growing in abundance in my life.
Courtney J. Strong, in her Bible study, Preoccupied with Promise, wants her readers to reclaim contagious joy in Christ no matter the circumstances. The picture she gives for most of the study is the Samaritan woman at a well in the mid-day heat, meeting and learning about Jesus. The woman may have trudged to the well, trying to avoid neighbors and others in her village who would shun her, but after her encounter with Jesus, she was a changed woman. She hurried with joy to shamelessly tell all around about the Man she had met. This kind of open-hearted joy in the midst of a hard life is the kind of joy with which I want to fill my own life.
Courtney talks about obstacles to joy the woman may have faced in her everyday life, obstacles we may need to overcome, as well. She warns of spiritual warfare, opening our eyes to a reality I often forget. She provides Scripture to meet our needs and help us encounter Jesus as much as or more than the woman did. She explains how we need to focus on the truth of the Scripture, ask God for help and joy, look expectantly for His answer, and instead of just hearing truth, learn to experience it fully ourselves. All of these and more are ways Courtney helps guide her readers to greater joy.
In addition, Courtney explains a technique that the woman at the well might have done well to use if she had known it. This technique was the most impactful to me. She asks us to identify an emotion that is getting in the way of our joy. She then tells us to think of a specific situation where this emotion often shows up in our lives. Next, we are to think of where our thoughts normally go during this time. What do we normally say to ourselves–this could be several paragraphs long. She then guides her readers to summarize the thoughts into short bullet points. Finally, she teaches us how to replace any wrong thoughts with truth.
When we dwell on the truth and control our thoughts, our emotions will follow. The negative emotion that had taken over will fall away, leaving joy and peace in its place.
I find this technique so helpful because if I’m not careful, I can go around believing lies that leave me defeated, joy slipping right through my fingers.
I have believed the lie that God won’t truly love me until I continue to do good enough to satisfy Him. As I know of His perfect holiness, and I’m painfully aware of my imperfect motives and actions, this leaves me feeling unloved much of the time. But God says that nothing can separate me from His love, not now, not ever (Rom. 8:38-39).
I have believed the lie that some sins exist that I just can’t defeat, that I will continue to fall into time after time. But God tells me that I am not a slave to sin, that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in me (Rom. 8:11-13) to overwhelmingly conquer sin.
I have believed the lie that I don’t have enough to do the jobs put in front of me well, that I will only fail over and over again. But God tells me that where I am weak, He is strong, that I have everything I need in Him (II Cor. 12:9 and Phil. 4:19).
As I focus on the truth instead of the lie, my emotions that would have spiraled downward, start spiraling up.
If you find any of this to be an answer to a lack of joy in your own life, I hope you’ll buy this study for yourself, work through it, and begin to “reclaim the contagious joy you were meant to experience now” as Courtney exhorts on the cover. If you are interested, you can find the book here.