Choose Joy

Jesus Calling Author Sarah Young

      
<em>Sarah Young is seen here in the sunroom of her Nashville home- her favorite place to sit and focus on God and pray without interruption. She emphasizes the importance of quiet time with God particularly when we are deeply discouraged and don’t understand His ways. “It’s crucial to stay in communication with Jesus—clinging to Him and His Word,” says Young.</em>
Sarah Young is seen here in the sunroom of her Nashville home- her favorite place to sit and focus on God and pray without interruption. She emphasizes the importance of quiet time with God particularly when we are deeply discouraged and don’t understand His ways. “It’s crucial to stay in communication with Jesus—clinging to Him and His Word,” says Young.

Rejoice always! This is one of the shortest verses in the Bible, but it is radiant with heavenly Light. I made you in My image, and I crafted you with the ability to choose Joy in the moments of your life. When your mind is going down an unpleasant, gloomy path, stop it in its tracks with this glorious command.” – Excerpt from Jesus Always

Best known for her 365-day devotional Jesus Calling, author Sarah Young ’s personal journey toward joy in the Lord has been forged through unbelief in her youth and chronic illness in adulthood. Specializing in devotions meant to be read slowly with the Bible open, her newest book, Jesus Always, encourages readers toward intimacy with Christ as they look for joy in every circumstance. Young recently shared with Birmingham Christian Family about her life experiences and intentionally choosing joy in 2017.

As a philosophy major at Wellesley College in the 1960s, Young was a non-Christian searching for truth. “Each time I began studying a new philosophy I’d get excited, thinking this one might end my quest. However, further study always revealed flaws,” she says. “Eventually, I became disillusioned and concluded that there was no absolute truth.” A few years later, however, Young’s brother gave her a copy of Francis Schaeffer’s book Escape from Reason. Reconsidering some of the existential questions she formerly considered unanswerable, she became a student at L’Abri, Schaeffer’s international study center and residential community in Switzerland. Surrounded by a magnificent view of the Alps, staff at L’Abri helped Young seek answers to life’s difficult questions as she intensely pursued apologetics and a Christian worldview. “There, I found a wonderful combination of intellectual integrity and a caring Christian community…. Finally, I had a solid foundation on which to build my life!”

After her conversion, Young met her husband, Stephen, while they were both students at St. Louis’s Covenant Theological Seminary. The couple spent eight years working as missionaries in Japan and later moved to Australia to work with Japanese immigrants. Young began her signature practice of journaling while in quiet communion with God when living in Melbourne. In 1996, while on a retreat based on Peter’s walk on water to Jesus (Mark 14:22-23), she made a commitment to compile her writings for what would eventually be published as Jesus Calling in 2004. Even at 12 years old, the book continues to see an increase in sales. It is even distributed to inmates at U.S. prisons, including those in Alabama. She explains that the feedback she has received from readers has been exciting and humbling. “Readers have told of how Jesus Calling gave them hope when they didn’t think they could go on. Those struggling with illness, death, and grief have said the book brought them comfort in their darkest hours,” she says. “People battling addictions have found courage in their struggle to break free…. Many readers have said that using Jesus Calling helped them develop a love for the Bible. I give God the glory for all of these things!”

<em>Sarah Young’s books have sold 17 million copies across all formats (including e-book, large print and Spanish translation) with sales growing exponentially over time. Her latest book Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence (Thomas Nelson, $15.99) is available at Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts in Alabaster.</em>
Sarah Young’s books have sold 17 million copies across all formats (including e-book, large print and Spanish translation) with sales growing exponentially over time. Her latest book Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence (Thomas Nelson, $15.99) is available at Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts in Alabaster.

Even with the knowledge of Jesus’ redeeming love, however, many Christians struggle to feel joy over anxiety or discontentment or despair. For some, Young says, it’s modern distractions that make it difficult to keep the beautiful truths of the Bible in the forefront of our minds. “It’s essential for us to take time to step away and focus on the Lord. It may help to go into another room or to sit outside for a while—listening to the sounds of God’s creation,” she shares. “Try to find a way to make quiet reflection a reality in your daily life. Sometimes it helps to have a special place in your home where you can be still and pray without interruptions. My sunroom is that place for me.”

Written in the same gentle tone as Young’s other books, her newest book Jesus Always guides readers through 365 days of tips for joy-filled living. Entries include encouragement to stay in communion with Jesus, to trust that Jesus loves you and delights in you, and to consider challenges a joyful opportunity.  For Young, challenge often comes in the form of illness. She has struggled with Lyme disease, an unusual form of chronic vertigo, low energy, allergies and dietary restrictions since 2001.  She says all of her devotional books have emerged from her weakness and struggles. “This keeps me looking to the Lord and His strength—seeking His Face. I look not only to Him but to His Word for strength, help, and encouragement…. I need a lot of prayer preparation before I attempt to begin writing. I always ask God to connect His infinite sufficiency with my utter insufficiency—so that I can write according to His will. So my health struggles help me rely on Jesus and work collaboratively with Him.”

<em>Sarah and Stephen Young with their children and grandchildren at Christmas. The couple continues their ministry to the Japanese at a multi-cultural church in Nashville, Tenn.</em>
Sarah and Stephen Young with their children and grandchildren at Christmas. The couple continues their ministry to the Japanese at a multi-cultural church in Nashville, Tenn.

Young sees challenges as opportunities.  “Sarah Adams’s beloved hymn begins with the words ‘Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!’ Most Christians’ hearts resonate with that desire. But the content of the next line is perhaps less popular: ‘Even though it be a cross that raises me.’ I think my constant health struggles have been a cross that lifts me toward Jesus,” she says. “So I view my writing adventure and chronic illness as a package deal. As much as I long to get healthier, I have received this ‘deal’ joyfully.”

Young emphasizes that Scripture memorization is key to pursuing joy because it reminds Christians that they never face anything alone—Jesus is with them at all times. She has recently been focusing on Psalm 33 and Romans 8:18-39 and also recommends Philippians 4:4-8 to Christian Family readers who want to specifically make a joy a priority in 2017:


“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”

Camille Smith Platt

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