Once upon a time, I woke up on an old friend’s couch with a throbbing head and guilty heart. I blinked through eyes bloodshot from dry contacts, my confusion slowly fading as I remembered where and who I was.

I was a brand-new Christian in a situation I should have avoided but recklessly sought after. I laid there, drowning in shame infinitely more agonizing than the pounding in my head, and contemplated how I ended up here again.

At first, my testimony seemed like a fairy tale. Jesus rode in and saved me from the clutches of the enemy just in time. He turned a lost girl into a princess, and my life felt magical. But before ‘happily ever after’ could write itself out on the screen, the high of salvation’s spell wore off. Happiness vanished, and I went looking for more of it.

Without realizing it, I fulfilled Romans 1:25 – I exchanged the truth about God for a lie. For me, I chose to put my short-lived happy ending higher than eternity with Him, and the results didn’t satisfy. I kept telling myself that I achieved happiness, but when I finally could stomach getting up and looking in the mirror that morning, I saw the lost girl again. And matching gazes with her, I knew I needed to choose something other than just feeling happy.

Friend, I won’t sell you the “choose joy” mantra that everyone seems to post about lately. I won’t say that if you just believe harder and pray more that you will feel better again. I’m not ignorant to the fact that someone reading this also woke up from a deep sleep still feeling depressed, anxious, and not good enough. Therefore, I won’t insist that you can choose how you feel.

I will say that choosing a life of obedience produced far more wholeness than just choosing to see the bright side. I will admit that I felt discouraged when I still didn’t turn into the perfect person I longed for, but found comfort in the one who provides grace in my weakness. I will say that when temptation reached for me, I chose to reach for Jesus.

And as for the lost girl in the mirror, I don’t see her anymore. I stopped seeing and defining myself by the situations I got into, but not because I fixed all my problems and live my life better now.

But because someone more than a man once chose to hang on a cross so that I could always look at my reflection and see a princess.

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