“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2 (ESV)
Do you ever hear clichés that make you cringe every time you hear them leave someone’s lips? Some of those phrases for me are “Bless her heart,” or “She is such a sweet spirit.” There is one, in particular, that seems to make my blood pressure rise the most: “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 number three instead. This phrase is wrong. We, as believers in Jesus Christ, do not find our joy and strength through the trials or events 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.”
I want to take you on my personal journey over the last 22 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 of my days.
More often than I care to admit, I have asked Jesus to just end it all, to find a way to quickly take me from this earth so I would no longer have to endure the pain and anxiety of life. Some days, I literally hate getting up in the mornings because of the great unknown that is ahead of me. Coffee is my constant companion because sleep does not come at night. I move through life in a fog, a shadow of my former self. I know that I am not living the joy-filled life that I was created by God to live.
Beloved, we must choose joy. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NASB). Give your thoughts to Jesus and ask Him to help to help you choose joy. We are not expected to anything on our own. In fact, John 15:5 says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
With the help of Jesus Christ, 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. My oldest daughter stood on the edge of the swimming pool, adjusted her bright blue and green swimsuit and dove right into the deep end. No hesitation or fear, she just knew she could complete the task. 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. In the same way, Jesus is always ready to love us, no matter what broken tools we carry around in our toolbox.
God’s heart for His daughters is that we walk in our identity in Jesus, not in a fleshy estimation of ourselves. Joy comes from seeing with eyes of the Spirit. The enemy cannot maintain a stronghold on our hearts and minds if we choose to align them 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 a powerful tool that allows us to make an immediate change in our lives.
So, what have I learned during this dark and stormy season of my life? Prayer is comforting and necessary, and more than leaning on anyone else, lean on Jesus. Let Him provide you with the comfort and safe place that you so desperately seek. Proverbs 56:8 reminds us that He is listening even when we cannot find the words to speak out loud. Friends, He hears you, He loves you, and He is always walking by your side. Satan will push you to believe that you are walking through life alone, so you must guard your hearts (Proverbs 4:23). When you are facing sadness or hardship, always seek Jesus first in prayer.
I would like to be able to tell you that I am a completely changed woman. I will tell you that I am a work in progress. 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 for in the morning! I choose joy!
Blessings and Love,
- Write the following verses on note cards or in your journal. Please try to memorize these verses. They are powerful verses about trusting the Lord in all circumstances.
• Psalm 13:5 • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 • James 1:2-4 • Nehemiah 8:10b
- In your journal, define the words content and satisfied in your own words. Be specific and detailed in your answer.
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!