How a handful of words gave me the joy to keep on track in Japan

Yesterday I read a blog post by my friend Peta that reminded me of two things that are critical for me as I seek to live for Jesus here in Japan:

The power of joy

The power of words

You see I’ve been in Japan for just over a month now, and the long-termness of my stay here has sunk in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on the edge or anything, but life here can be tough. The Japanese language . . . goodbyes  . . . natto. It’d be easy to be cynical. Especially if you’re me (but more on that some other time).

So the words of Peta’s blog struck me something mighty. Actually the title by itself struck me,

Today I Choose joy

Starbucks cup with "Have a nice day" written on it


This was the reminder I needed. That the fight for joy involves a choice. A choice to rejoice (sorry I didn’t intend that terrible rhyme!).

It was a simple message. After all it was only a blog post. About 500 words. I doubt it took Peta more than an hour to write. And yet there was power in those words to keep me going in the fight against cynicism.

And this is not the only experience I’ve had of the power of a few words. These last few weeks I’ve received a number of e-mails from different friends that have contained powerful words. Words that have guided me and spurred me on. Just e-mails. Simple, brief, and generally with sketchy grammar. But with words that have kept me going.

Because we often think that the only words that can stop a disaster, or motivate someone for adventure, are epic speeches, right? We think in order to fire people up we need to quote the Lord of the Rings or something.

But it is often the simple daily reminders that keep us on the straight and narrow.

Think of your car sat-nav: which instruction is the most important?

OK sure, if you miss the turnoff from a motorway it is more annoying than if you do the same on a normal road, but you get my point, right?

It’s the gentle “Keep going straight” that encourages us that we’re on the right track. And the quiet but firm, “Perform a U-turn when necessary” that stops us from continuing in the wrong direction.

“Keep going”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself”

“Isn’t Jesus awesome?”

“Praying for you”

“Choose joy”

Simple words. But sometimes that’s all we need: clear but gentle reminders to keep on keeping on. To keep fighting the good fight. And to do it with a happy heart.

The post Peta wrote was actually inspired by another blog. That didn’t reduce its power. Because the power of words doesn’t come from their originality, but from their truthfulness. The call to “rejoice” was not a new idea for me. In fact, none of the words that people sent to me were really original. They didn’t have to be. They were reminders of truths that I had taken my eyes off in the business of life.

Not that I’ve been particularly busy. I don’t think busyness is a necessary requisite of forgetfulness – being human is enough for that. I think that’s why the Bible is so full of the same things being said over and over again. And why the apostle Peter wrote to the first bunch of Christians,

“I know you know this stuff, but I’m going to keep reminding you of it until I die.”

Because joy in the Lord Jesus gives power to pour out your life for the sake of others. And that joy can come from a handful of words.


But enough from me: what about you? Have you ever experienced the power of a few simple words?


2 thoughts on “How a handful of words gave me the joy to keep on track in Japan

  1. sando

    This post made me smile. Many years ago I did a bible study with someone based on a book and video and one of the few words that struck were the same “Today I choose joy”. On many occasions I have tried to use it as an encouragement and even talked to myself and say those words OUT LOUD, especially when tempted to do the opposite.

    Years later I am no longer sure that joy, as in biblical joy, is really a choice – if you mean that in an intellectual way, as in something I decide to “do”. Rejoicing is a command and there are times when I simply can’t choose joy – I am not always willing and my sinful mind often pulls me in the other direction and I prefer disobedience, self-pity or just can’t get over my sadness.

    But what I have is the power to choose to look to Jesus who is the source of joy and hope… So I guess this leaves me with the question : as a Christian, is joy something that is already “in” me and that I have the ability to go and grab when I need it or is it something that is “given” to me rather if I ask for it? Hmmm…. Does that make sense? I guess maybe we’d need to define what joy is…in the biblical sense, of course…

    What thinks you?


    1. levibooth Post author

      Hey Sandra, many apologies for the delay in replying. I have however been thinking about your comment!

      If I were to be brief, I would say simply ‘yes’ to your thoughts. But since that’s not very helpful, I’ll expand a wee bit:

      I do think that joy is something we choose, but not in the Tony Robbins sense, rather in the St. Paul sense. Or I guess you could say that choosing joy is not the same as choosing to wear shorts, but is more like choosing to be healthy. It’s not something that you can create by sheer willpower, but it is something that you can choose to move towards (and like you mention, sometimes that’s very difficult and there’s limits to what we can expect).

      I was listening to a talk on joy the other day and the summary was,

      “Joy is found on the other side of the difficult choice to trust God rather than yourself.”

      I agree with that. It’s actually something I’m experiencing at the moment when there are a few situations where I am tempted to trust in myself, which frankly leads only to stress, rather than to trust in God. In that sense joy is something that I choose not just each day, but many times throughout the day, as I choose to entrust God with the concerns that dog me and drain my joy.

      I think this is the kind of thing Paul meant when he said, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

      Does that make more sense? And/or do you agree?



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