This was the devotion I gave at my daughter’s bridal shower last year. The theme is from a talk Michelle Duggar gave at a ladies’ tea, and I’m posting it now in honor of her continuing example of showing us how she chooses joy as she honors God by loving her husband and her children.
Daddy has always told his girls that every girl dreams of her wedding, but what she gets is a marriage. You have grown up with a sensible view of weddings, one that sees them as special celebrations of the gift of a covenant marriage, both solemn and joyous. Like so many things in this life, there is a godly tension between the seriousness of the vows you will make with Kyle and with God, and the fun festivities of the wedding feast. That’s where we will share a covenant meal with you both, topped off with wedding cake, a picture of the Feast we will share in Heaven with our Bridgegroom, Jesus.
But it’s still one day, then there is the rest of your life to share with your husband, and, Lord willing, the dozens of children he blesses you with, the ones I am already calling my little Wicklings.
There will be lots of feasts and celebrations in the Wick family. You know very well how to celebrate with gusto. Before we tore our house down, you used to get up every morning bright and early and wake us all up with your singing! Special times, though, will be punctuation marks in the mundane dailiness which you’ve heard me speak of often, and which we have lived together for 21 years. That’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. So I am speaking to you today not of romance, though we have talked of that together and I know you and Kyle will do well in your wooing after you are married.
Until we get to that heavenly Jerusalem which is set on Mount Zion, our mountaintop experiences, like weddings, are brief glimpses of Heaven, which is the Not Yet. In the Now, however, we often live in the valleys and need to keep our eyes focused on those hills that the Psalmist spoke of, hills which focus our attention on our future hope and our present help:
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep?your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Until we travel to that heavenly place, we MUST keep looking toward God’s holy mountain, longing for the journey but keeping in proper perspective our contentment with the Here and Now. The Now and the Not Yet…both are important. You and I, my daughter, have been on many journeys together of all sorts, literal and figurative. We’ve traveled to Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, D.C., Virginia, Texas, and Montana. On one of our journeys, we met an amazing mother of 19 children, Michelle Duggar. You remember that she is the only person I’ve ever told, “I ONLY have 10 children.” She is a woman who obviously has a genuinely quiet and gentle spirit, something the world cannot comprehend with such a large family. She spoke to a ladies’ tea this summer in San Antonio, and though we didn’t get to go to the tea, others told us about her talk, the theme of which was, “Choose Joy.”
When I heard that, I thought…how simple and how profound! Every day, we have a choice. Our circumstances always change, and sometimes our circumstances stink, but we can either choose to be angry, bitter, complaining, and depressed OR we can choose joy. Hmmm…hard choice, isn’t it?
Well, even though it seems obvious which we ought to choose, we still choose what we ought not to choose. You, better than anyone, know how often I fail in this. Just this week, with all the pressure of the wedding, and house remodeling, and homeschooling, and daily life…and the prospect of saying goodbye to my sweet daughter in a month…you have seen me choose complaining and tears instead of joy. We cling to the sin that so easily besets us, instead of laying it aside in favor of the freedom we can have when we rest in God.
How can we choose joy? It’s not easy. Puritan Thomas Owen said, “There are two things, which I have always looked upon as difficult. The one is, to make the wicked sad; the other is, to make the godly joyful.”
I have spoken to you and your sisters and many others about how to choose joy. You know that joy and happiness are very different things. Happiness depends on circumstances; joy is the fruit of the Spirit that comes from being wholly dependent on our sovereign God, and it can be yours even in the midst of trials both big and small. Happiness is selfish, joy is selfless.
I could remind you to look to the past and know God will be faithful in the future as He has always been. I could tell you to learn to be content in whatever situation you are in, whether in abundance or need. I could say that in your weakness you will find God’s strength. Of course, I also want you to never forget that your purpose in all things is not to please yourself, but to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Those are things I know we will continue to talk about together as the years go by and you deal with the dailiness of life and whatever God ordains for you in His loving plan for your sanctification.
But the main thing I will speak of today is that as you move from California to Montana, from being our daughter to being Kyle’s wife, you need to have the proper perspective. Come what may, you will have to step back, take a deep breath, and calmly evaluate every situation through a special lens. We’re not talking rose-colored glasses here, but that old glass half full or half empty trick. Just because it’s trite doesn’t mean it’s not true!
I’m going to give three illustrations to help us when we are tempted to say, “Poor me!” or “Things are terrible!” or “I want Anna back!” or “I want my mommy!” First, a reminder from God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 4: What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
Anna and Mom need to remember that everything we have is from God…and He has given us everything in His Son. If that is true, then how can we NOT be filled with joy, no matter what is happening around us? How can we complain when we don’t get our way? He only gives us the best for us.
Second, I will tell you a story that Ronald Reagan was fond of telling to encourage those around him to not get discouraged, even when the odds seemed stacked against them:
Once there were 5-year-old twin boys. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities — one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist — their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. “What’s the matter?” the psychiatrist asked, baffled. “Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?” “Yes,” the little boy bawled, “but if I did I’d only break them.”
Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. “With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”
Maybe you think there’s a little bit of that annoying Pollyanna and her “glad game” here–just look on the bright side of life–but I’m hoping you will see that I’m trying to help you understand that whatever God ordains is right. You should always look for the “pony” knowing that, as our friend Susan says, “God is good, all the time.” Even when it seems like things stink…and they will, especially when the diapers pile up one day, Lord willing…there’s more to the situation than meets the eye, or the nose. When you make the conscious choice to understand that, you are choosing joy.
My last illustration for you is a poem which you have heard before, but which reminds us how important the proper perspective is in not only dealing with our circumstances, but sometimes even in changing them:
This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream: —
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle’s edge,
And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steel —
That blue blade that the king’s son bears, — but this
Blunt thing!” — he snapt and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king’s son, wounded, sore bested,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle-shout
Lifted afresh, he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.
Anna, my dear daughter, you, no less than your brothers, are an arrow, about to be sent out into the battle, with a very important part to play. You will fight valiantly, I know, for the glory of King Jesus, in the home He is giving you as His warrior princess, who will raise up new arrows to continue fighting until the battle He has already won for us is completed at the last day. He has promised us in Isaiah 11:9 that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” What a great privilege we have, my dear girl, to serve such a King. I am so pleased that you are ready to carry on this great and glorious mission, as a helpmeet to Kyle in Montana. May God bless you, both, and may you cling to Jesus, always keeping a proper perspective of the Now and the Not Yet. May you choose joy.