• Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC

Keeping Joy


We are demolishing arguments and ideas, every high-and-mighty philosophy that pits itself against the knowledge of the one true God. We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (The Voice)


Ugh… in the middle of everything that is continuing to unfold in our world, joy is the last thing I want to be writing about. Seriously.

I feel a bit like a New York street hustler inviting unsuspecting tourists to play a game of “Find the Queen.”

You know the game, the one where the guy has 3 slightly bent cards in front of him. One is the queen and two are not. Your job is to watch as he quickly shuffles the cards one over the other and to not lose sight of the queen you saw at the beginning. If you can hang on to the visual of your queen to the end, you win!

More often than not, people lose.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I mean, I am not intentionally trying to mislead or deceive anyone with our Campaign of Joy. I do believe joy is real, beautiful, and possible in any situation. However, sometimes keeping joy once you’ve found it is a whole different game, much like “Find the Queen.”

It’s like this. We are invited into the idea of “seeking joy” as we talked about in week 1, like the vendor inviting us over on the street corner. Then we are pulled deeper into the idea of “finding joy” as we talked about in week 2, much like the vendor initially showing us the queen.

But then, things seem to get all mixed up and confusing. I saw joy, I had it! I really did, much like how I saw the card and I followed it, or at least I thought I did. Then all of a sudden it was gone… the card and my joy.

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for me as I try to navigate this “stay at home” order due to the COVID-19 crisis. One day the sun is shining, I’m happy, positive and getting all sorts of things accomplished. Then boom, not even 12 hours later, it’s gray outside, the laundry and dishes are beginning to pile up and I’m just DONE with being isolated.

Up and down, up and down. It’s exhausting to even think about it!

Thankfully, God knew how I was going to navigate this season, which is why I believe he mapped out what I was going to write about several weeks ago. He knew I was going to struggle with keeping joy during this time and made sure I would have to dig into it for myself and hopefully be able to encourage some of you as well.

No one can ever make me believe that God does not have a sense of humor!

So here I am, thinking about keeping joy. I’ve looked up quotes and verses about joy but nothing about keeping it. Sitting quietly, looking out the back sliding glass door, the whisper comes, “Take captive every thought.”

I grab my Bible thinking, where is this verse found? The Apostle Paul always has a good word for me. I read in the NIV version, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor.10:5).

Yes, it’s so good, but The Voice translation speaks to what I am sensing the Lord is saying about keeping joy…

We are demolishing arguments and ideas, every high-and-mighty philosophy that pits itself against the knowledge of the one true God. We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One.

Friends, I am not a hustler peddling a false notion of finding and keeping joy right now. Joy is real and it is available to every single one of us during this trying time. However, I am honest to a fault, which means I have to lay all my cards on the table.

Joy is hard to keep.

There it is, I said it. Here is why…

We are a forgetful people. Oh, how easily we forget all the good God has done for us and how easily we allow anxiety, fear, negativity, and doubt to cloud our world.

Thankfully, knowing this, God gave us wisdom to help us keep joy through Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Our thoughts in the right context are beautiful but in the wrong context are outright dangerous. The things we allow ourselves to think cannot only make us an emotional wreck but can also cause physical ailments to our bodies. That is how powerful our thoughts can be. This is why Scripture uses such explicit language on how to deal with negative thoughts.

The NIV says we “take captive” our thoughts and the Voice translation says to “take prisoner.” I also love the way the Living Bible calls it “capturing rebels.” Do you see the imagery? We are not talking about a self-help mantra saying, “Just think happy thoughts!”

No, we are wrestling these negative, ugly, evil thoughts to the ground and making THEM obedient to Christ.

What exactly does that mean?

Philippians 4:8 (The Voice) spells it out for us…

“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.”

This isn’t a stick-your-head-in-the-sand and pretend everything is okay verse.

It’s reminding us that we have a choice in what we do with those thoughts that are trying to steal our joy. My goodness, if we take the time to wrestle them to the ground and fight with them, shouldn’t we follow through and make them obedient to Christ?

Friends, we can be pulled into the darkness by our thoughts or choose to fight them and lean into the light.

Let’s fight and keep our joy!



For Your Reflection…

Keeping joy is hard. What negative scripts are playing in your head that you need to “take captive and make obedient to Christ”?

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