Browsing Tag


Christian Life, Faith, Parenting

How to cultivate joy

January 23, 2018

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
– James 1:2-4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. 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
– Philippians 4:4-7


The last 10 days at the Pontius household have been rough ones, with Kelly, Micah, and I all in various stages of being sick with running noses, throbbing headaches, and endless coughing. Being sick is tough enough when you only need to take care of yourself but, as any parent knows, having a sick kid doubles the challenge.

For the last several nights Micah’s been awake 4-5 times a night with a wracking cough. It’s painful to listen to. Even more painful is the fact that it means we’ve spent a significant amount of time rocking him back to sleep or in some cases, sitting awake with him for an hour or two until he realizes it’s 3 AM and he’s still tired.

“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters,” James says. The Apostle Paul echoes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Challenging words when living sick on 5 hours of sleep. And being sick and lacking sleep are, in the grand scheme of things, small troubles. What of when you lose a parent? When you’re diagnosed with a terminal cancer? When your internet is slow. Kidding on that last one, obviously. But seriously.

Regardless of the circumstance, Paul and James are relentless about joy. James is specific; count your trials as joy. Paul agrees, both in word and deed as he sits in a jail cell worshipping after being stripped and beaten in public in Acts 16. In the eyes of these apostles joy isn’t a soft and fuzzy thing. It’s a necessity for Kingdom living that is to be cultivated with almost fierce intentionality. The question, of course, is how? From these oft-quoted verses I see at least four answers to that question.

Set your mind on joy.

We are to calculate troubles and trials as something of joy. When we encounter a hardship and are determining which side of the emotional scale to place it on, we are to place it on the site of the positive.

This isn’t something that comes naturally. It takes an intentional set of the mind – a determined reckoning that says “I will count this trial as joy.” When it’s 2 AM and Micah wakes up coughing, requiring Kelly or I to drag ourselves out of bed to go soothe him back to sleep it will require a determination in our semi-conscious minds to agree with Heaven and say “this is joy.”


Look to the outcome, not the moment

James says that it’s because testing and trials results in endurance or steadfastness, which leads to our being made complete that we are to calculate trials as joy-bringers.

If you’re struggling with joy it’s probably a problem of perspective. Odds are that you’re more focused on your current pain, tiredness, frustration, disappointment, etc than you are on where God’s taking you in the future. Faith isn’t stuck in the present; it has vision that sees the future as beautiful. Just like Jesus “who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2), we are to look beyond the moment and by faith behold the glory of the outcome.


Look at Jesus, not the problem

Paul’s words in Philippians are similar to James. He says that when we’re lacking joy it’s a problem of perspective. Where are we to find our joy? “Rejoice in the Lord,” not in circumstances. Only when we learn settle our emotions in the immortal, unchangeable Father can we enter into the joy that Paul learned to practice. We do this settling doing what, to again quote from Hebrews 12, is like “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. By intentionally redirecting our minds away from the immediate problem and setting it instead on who Jesus is and what he has done.


Then do it again. And again. And again.

“Again I will say, rejoice.” There’s a reason that Paul repeats himself here. This looking to Jesus isn’t a one-time decision that will forever loft us into heavenly floatings of joy. No, it is a repeated practice. A continual resetting of our mental bent until the supernatural activity of counting trials as joy and rejoicing always is as ingrained in us as breathing.

As we become those people we will discover a peace and happiness in all circumstances that frees us from so many of the trappings that we think we need. Anxiety will fade away and be replaced by hopeful expectancy. Shame will lose it’s power over us and we will be loosed to proclaim the goodness of our Savior anew.


Tonight may be a trial. Micah may wake up a dozen times, or may not sleep a wink. You may be in the midst of the most painful season you’ve yet to encounter in life. The next week may look like an impossibility. Take a deep breath. Determine it in your spirit that by the Spirit you will count it all joy. That you will take your eyes of yourself and your circumstances and rejoice in the Lord.

My guess is that we’ll get to the end of this and be amazed at how good God was in the midst of it.

Journal, Travel

Day Eight: Dengue

February 5, 2015

*Note: due to the fact that I was hospitalized, sick, and without internet for the majority of days 9-16, these posts are being published after-the-fact.


Sometimes plans change. Sometimes you’re not prepared no matter how prepared you are. Sometimes you get bitten by the one mosquito out of ten thousand that is carrying Dengue Fever and end up having to be on bed rest for three days and in the hospital for two.

It started out with a rash on my knee that both Kelly and Emily were worried about and Danu and I both ignored. The rash spread across most of my body after a full day in the sun at the beach, and after a little research on the web we determined it was most likely prickly heat rash and that my Minnesota-bred body wasn’t thrilled about the heat. It wasn’t irritating or anything, so I ignored it.

A couple days later after a two hour ride on a packed bus to have lunch with some friend’s of Danu’s I began having a fever and pretty harsh headaches, which we chalked up to heat exhaustion. However, when things didn’t improve after a night’s sleep in an air conditioned room and plenty of fluids, Kelly insisted that we go to a doctor. Thus began my short tour of Sri Lanka’s medical system.

First we went to a government hospital since it was the closest. We stood in line for 15 minutes and then were directed to stand in line at the door to the OPD office. Lines are treated much like traffic here. First come doesn’t necessarily mean first serve; it’s the person who is the most aggresive in asserting themselves that gets the right of way. Eventually we pushed through and sat down at a small square table in the small square room for about a minute while the doctor asked several questions, checked my pulse, said that she thought I might have viral fever, and motioned for us to leave, handing us an illegible prescription. It ended up being for 5 different drugs, all thoroughly non-descript and generic. The total cost, 500 rupees (about $4)

We left the government hospital feeling none too confident about the diagnosis and the drugs, so later that evening we drove to one of the private hospitals in Galle city and were able to see one of their doctors after only a 10 minute wait. The contrast was drastic. We spent about 15 minutes talking, he checked me over, and said that I most likely had viral fever but that we should do a blood test to make sure it wasn’t Dengue. He prescribed two drugs, one for the for the fever and one for the headaches. Total cost, 3200 rupees ($25).

Turns out it’s a very good thing that the blood tests were done. The results came back Dengue positive.

Dengue’s no fun and can have potentially deadly complications if you’re unlucky enough to get one of the worse strains like Dengue Hemmorhagic Fever, nick-named breakbone fever due to the intense muscle and joint pain accompanying the fever. A couple patients I read online talked about feeling like their legs were broken. Apparently the nick-name is serious.

Thankfully the more serious forms of Dengue are fairly rare, and even they are only rarely fatal. So far all I’ve had is some splitting headaches, dizziness, and overwhelming tiredness that’s made me sleep probably 16 hours a day for the last couple days. No fun when you’re supposed to be out enjoying the beaches and local markets.

Tomorrow we’ll go back to the hospital to get a doctor’s advice on what to do. Hopefully I’ll be healed soon enough that we can continue on with our trip around the island.