I was listening to a podcast this week while walking, taking a break from audio books. I must encourage you to listen to anything Sally Clarkson writes or records. She comes from a Christian perspective, and particularly ministers to women of every age. Her voice of wisdom is like water for thirsty ground.
One of the topics recently was living with joy. I was captivated by her words of encouragement and truth. How do we choose joy when life has dealt us one blow after another? How do we rise to the level of trust in our God when the worst has happened?
Not a single one of us has escaped tragedy of some sort. You’re either coming out of a trial, entering a trial, or are firmly established in a trial. Personal relationships are usually found at the center of our deepest woes, but also financial worries, cultural and political wars, and health issues. The great equalizer of the human condition is that none of us are spared trouble. So how do we respond as believers in a faithful God?
If you’ve lived long enough, you can testify to the fact that nothing stays the same. As I reflect on my 60+ years, I know that life has balance and rhythm. The very thing that tore me apart twenty years ago is insignificant today, and yet it shaped me into the person I am now. Does that mean I chose joy every time? No, it does not. It’s taken a lifetime to recognize the beauty of choosing joy when my world is falling apart.
We all have ongoing pain from a multitude of sources. How we respond makes an impact on our total person, but it also has an affect on those around us.
There are cliché sayings, some even evoke eye-rolls, but when you truly grasp the meaning behind the familiar words, nuggets of truth emerge.
“God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.”
There are many things I can’t handle, but because I am never alone, His Spirit lives within me, I can truly say there’s nothing I can’t handle. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but it means I can choose to trust the One who walks with me, guiding me in the path I should go. Choosing joy allows me to move forward in trust.
“When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.”
Psalm 94:19 ESV
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
This one is actually true, and you know what I’m talking about. There’s something miraculous about surviving a trial that had the power to take you out. Choosing joy in this situation looks a lot like praising Him in the storm.
“You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”
Psalm 32:7 ESV
“There’s beauty in the broken.”
This one I know deep in my heart. Unless we are broken, we cannot help someone else. Have you ever thought God allowed your difficult situation so you could offer joy, compassion, and understanding to another person? If we don’t show the world how to relate to people in kindness and love, how can we expect them to follow the God we love? When we respond with apathy, selfishness, and pride, we lose the voice we have in a world filled with hatred.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the
Power of Christ may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
My challenge to us all is to choose how you will respond to any given situation, before it happens. Our emotions have the ability to send us down a painful path when we react before thinking. Choose to be grateful for the little things when the big things threaten to tear you apart. Choose to forgive, even when you’ve been wronged, and the other person withholds forgiveness. Choose to love the unlovable. Period. Choose to allow the other person to cut in front of you in traffic. (I need to work on this one.) Choose to allow nature to minister to your brokenness. A walk in your neighborhood, a beautiful garden, or a woodsy path may be just the thing to help you shake off moodiness, or despair. Find the thing that brings you joy and make it a regular activity. Our creator gave us a multitude of beauty to surround ourselves with. It probably won’t solve our problems overnight, but choosing joy gives us the frame of mind to live with a grateful heart.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Going through many trials, I learned to trust the Word of God. It literally saved my life, and gave me joy. That, my friends, is something I’ll never tire of speaking about.