Choose Joy

By Wycliffe College Blog
Choose Joy blog image, Shelley McLagan, Director of Development, Wycliffe College


When my kids were little, I always started their days with prayer. Just before leaving for school, we would hold hands and I would pray over them. As they got older, certain themes began to arise and I wrote down a few lessons from Scripture that I thought were important truths for them to remember. I typed it up to look pretty and stuck it on the door so we could all read these thoughts together before heading out. Before long, we all had the piece memorized. It started with “This is the day that my Lord has made. I choose to have joy and contentment in it.” All these years later, I continue to recite these truths in my head every morning before getting out of bed (I hope my kids do too, but teenagers are scary, so I’m afraid to ask).

However, Tuesday was a difficult morning in a difficult season. I woke to an early alarm and laid in bed reciting our ‘truths’. For some reason I stalled on “I choose to have joy”. I mulled that thought for a few minutes until the snooze alarm forced me to move on. I put in my earbuds and pressed play on the Wycliffe Morning Prayer chapel recording from the day before, to listen as I got ready for the day. Professor Wray Beal led the service and when it came time to pray for staff, she paused and specifically asked God to give the staff renewed joy as we carried out our work. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Fortunately, I hadn’t done my makeup yet so there were no reparative measures needed. I carried on, embarking on my two-hour journey to the College. As I entered my office, a piece of Christmas décor caught my eye. “Joy to the World” it read, and I was levelled again. I love it when God taps me on the shoulder.

I think sometimes as Christians, we have a subconscious expectation that knowing Jesus means we’ll be shiny happy people all the time, but those who have walked with the Lord for a while know that this isn’t the case. Sometimes life is hard for all kinds of reasons and if we count on our emotions to carry us through, we’ll be let down more often than not. What is true is that God is always good, always in control, and always with us, through good times and bad, and sometimes we have to draw consciously on what we know to be true, rather than what feels true in the moment. I often think about that verse from Jeremiah – “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Recent mental health research indicates that intentional gratefulness and positive thinking rewire our brains to notice more things in life that cause the emotion of joy, but as Christians we know it is so much more than that. The source of true joy is God and as we remind ourselves who He is and surrender our lives to Jesus, that path will lead to joy. It’s rarely a smooth path, and those in the midst of despair know how very hard, seemingly impossible, this can be. But joy is a gift we receive from God. And like all gifts, we have to choose to receive it.  

Shelley McLagan is the Director of Development at Wycliffe and her Christmas decorations stay up until February. She considers it a privilege to help people engage more deeply in what God is doing through the College, whether they be donors, alumni, or anyone else who will listen. She can be found in the admin wing, across the hall from the Principal’s office.