“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2 ESV
“The Bible teaches that true joy is formed in the midst of difficult seasons of life” Francis Chan
Grab your journal, Bible, and something to write with and head to your quiet place. Spend some time praying and ask God to prepare your heart and mind for today’s study.
In your journal, define the words content and satisfied in your own words. Be specific and detailed in your answer.
Do you have certain clichés that you hear that just make you cringe or invisibly roll your eyes every time you hear them leave someone’s lips? You know the phrases I am referring to; such as “Bless her Heart” and “There are two ways to skin a cat.” There is one, in particular, that seems to make my blood pressure rise each time I hear the phrase. For me, it’s, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Really? My only two choices are the current trial I am facing in my life or death? I choose door #3 and leave both in the rearview mirror.
I feel this particular phrase is overused and it’s wrong. We, as believers in Jesus Christ, do not find our joy and strength through the trials, events and daily task in our lives. We find our joy and strength through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Psalm 73:26 tells us “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” A strong heart for God is a joyful heart for God. It is written in Nehemiah 8:10b, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I want to take you on my personal journey over the last 18 months. I have walked in the darkest season I have known as a believer. My life is challenging in several different areas: struggles with my oldest daughter, my health, and lack of close friendships. Perhaps your life is challenging too. I have never been in a place of such severe loneliness and frustration before in all my days. I watch all of my closest girlfriends (from college and after) grow closer to one another because they live nearby one another and my heart aches. I spend hours arguing and pleading with my daughter (who is 7) to be more flexible and less angry. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that left me wondering if I would ever be able to enjoy exercise again.
More often than I care to admit, I have asked Jesus just to end it all, to find a way to quickly take me from this earth so I would no longer have to endure the pain, stress, and anxiety of life. Some days, I literally hate getting up in the mornings because of the great unknown that is ahead of me. I quickly realize that am not living the joy-filled life that I was created by God to live.
Beloved, we must choose joy. I am learning that I must take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We can choose to be joyful even if we are sad, lonely or angry. True, lasting joy is the direct result of trusting God, one day at a time and keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. When we choose to trust God fully with our lives, we can experience joy.
An eye-opening moment came for me recently. Actually, let’s refer to it as a heart-opening moment. My oldest daughter stood on the edge of the swimming pool, adjusted her bright blue and green swimsuit and dove right in the deep end. No hesitation or fear, she just knew she could complete the task. It was a sight to see. I realized at that moment that I am doing her a disservice when I do not see her through the eyes of Jesus. You see, I was unsure of my daughter’s ability but she had complete faith. I expected her to hesitate but she didn’t. In the same way, Jesus is always ready to love us no matter what we have in our baggage.
God’s heart for His daughters is that we walk in our identity in Jesus, not in a fleshy estimation of ourselves. When we learn to live from His identity, we have the freedom to confidently dive in without fear of anything that He sets before us. Joy comes from seeing with eyes of the Spirit.
If we can learn to love ourselves and others like Jesus, choosing joy in our lives will become second nature. The enemy cannot maintain a stronghold on our heart and mind if we choose to align our thoughts with the Lord Most High. I know that when I swap a negative thought or emotion with a positive one, actively choosing joy, I push the enemy aside and prove to him (and myself) that he has no power over me. Exchanging thoughts is such a powerful tool which allows us to make an immediate change in our lives.
I would like to be able to tell you that I am a completely changed woman. I will tell you that I am work in progress. Every day I strive to gain control over the negative thoughts and emotions that reside in my head and replace them with thoughts of complete joy. I trust God to guide me in my journey to be the best mother and wife because He placed me on this path with my husband and gave me two awe-inspiring children. My life is worth getting out of bed in the morning.
Questions to Ponder:
Write the following verses on notecards or in your journal. Please try to memorize these verses. They are powerful verses about trusting the Lord in all circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Faith Filled Idea:
Have you ever started a gratitude or blessing journal? It’s a very simple way to focus on all the good that God has done in your life. It is a wonderful source of joy. You can go back and reflect on all God has done in your life.
Grab a notebook or a daily calendar with enough room to write. Write down 3-5 items, events, etc. that you are grateful for that day. Remember to be consistent to have the journal be effective. You will be amazed at how much God blesses you over the course of a year when you take the time to write it down.