Finding Elusive Joy
Not everyone is excited and happy this time of year. Financial burdens, relational strains, alienation, illnesses, or deaths (recent or past) – each of these and many other circumstances can leave us feeling quite down and forgotten. #holidays #findingjoy
Romans 12:12 (NIV), “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT), “16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Sometimes, reading these passages feel like platitudes – like, here, plaster this on your heart, mind and tongue and it will all be better. But that is not the intention. This is not a platitude, a band aid, or a quick fix. It is a choice.
And be sure of this: When the Bible repeats a theme over and over again, it is not because they are easily taken to heart and put into practice. It is hard. The instruction bears repeating because our feelings want to win and tell us they are in control.
Especially when we are edgy, irritable, feeling abandoned, rejected and alone in the world. Those hard feelings of discomfort and hurt bubble up from our most vulnerable places. And if we are honest, not only do they bubble up, but they also spew on anything or anyone within earshot.
So how do we find joy, hope, be thankful and prayerful? And why is it helpful?
First, joy is very different than happiness. Happiness is circumstantial. It would be ridiculous to tell someone to be happy about feeling hurt or abandoned. Joyfulness is based on an eternal versus a circumstantial perspective. Ever notice when we observe the same object or event from different angles, we would describe it differently? Maybe very differently? That is the difference between joy and happiness – the angle we look at things from or where we place our focus. #joyvshappiness #changeperspective
Second, we remain stuck in unhappiness often because we deny reality of a circumstance or seek to have some sense of control over the circumstance that is unrealistic. Truly, there is very little I (or you) control in life except how we respond to it. Turning to prayer voices our needs, hopes and desires and relinquishes that mirage of control. Prayer places our need in the hands The One who has the power to change things. God can, as Creator of all things, change the course of events yet to unfold, create something out of nothing, or create nothing out of something! He can also provide comfort, peace and joy in those cases when He chooses not to change our circumstances. And because He is good, we can rest assured, the circumstance is intended to refine our characters. #control #prayer
Third, we are to be thankful in all circumstances. Note it does not insist we be thankful for all circumstances. That is an important distinction. God knows on this side of heaven we will encounter troubles – it is guaranteed. He also knows that turning our thoughts to thanksgiving rather than dwelling, ruminating on, and basking in self-pity is unlikely (think NEVER) going to produce a mindset and heart condition that allows Him to heal us. Determining to find points of gratitude and thanksgiving in spite of negative circumstances makes space in our hearts, minds and souls for God to continue the good work He began in us. #thankful #grateful
Is it natural to move in these directions and choose these things when life feels bad? Nope. But we can choose to use the minds we were given to place out thoughts and attentions where God directs and experience joy. #choosejoy