I have continued to ponder what it means for us to fight for joy in our lives. I know that being joyful doesn’t mean we are always happy and personally, I know that you can have joy and be in the midst of pain.
Love is Not Always the Removal of Pain
As I sit here and write, speaking from what I have experienced and watched in the lives of others, I’ve learned that joy comes from being authentic about where we are. Those experiences lead to honest reflection about our emotions and struggles while clinging to the hope we have in Christ.
We do have to place our hope and expectations in WHO God is and WHAT He can do that we cannot. If we are placing our hope and expectations in people, we will only be disappointed and discouraged. God uses people to make a difference in the lives of others but we must never put our hope in a person. If an individual is making a difference and meeting a need in your life, then praise God. He is the one working through them . . . for His glory!
Many of us have been taught that joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances. But what about when the hard goes on for months, even years and there is no end in sight? How can we apply what we know and live it out?
All I know is what I’ve experienced in my own life and what I have seen in the lives around me. So with that, let’s dig into our thoughts and emotions and the temptation to be led by them.
Inside My Head Is a Scary Place
I think that is my hardest battle. Feelings can lie to us and they are not always based on what is true. If we follow our feelings, our thought life can spiral to places we don’t need nor want to go. That leads to a life without joy, because our minds become carnal and we lose our eternal perspective.
But . . . we do have a choice when it comes to our thoughts.
Grumble or Praise: What You Choose Matters
I can follow my flesh and grumble, or I can die to myself and choose to praise God. I don’t have to feel good to praise God, but I promise you that when I choose praise over complaining and worrying, joy will come. It’s an act that demonstrates where I am placing my hope and trust.
Also, I have to recognize what is happening. The enemy wants us to be consumed with self, so I have to be aware of that when faced with something that puts me into a selfish spin. Learning to do this has been a sloooooowww process for me. It has taken me YEARS to recognize what’s going on and be able to identify the lies that I am believing. I still don’t always get it right immediately.
And that’s on me.
Thankfully, God is patient and full of mercy. For that, I am eternally grateful.
When negative feelings start to take over and our thoughts turn to to our deepest fears and insecurities, we can take those thoughts captive by identifying what is TRUE. Are those thoughts based on assumptions we’ve made . . . or are those thoughts being held up to what God has said in His word?
We have to KNOW what God says or we don’t have anything to stand on.
Assuming Things Can Get You In Trouble
We can assume a lot of things. I have learned that my assumptions are very often totally wrong. After all, what am I basing my assumptions on? Usually, my feelings or thought processes are led by my feelings. They are SO damaged and wrong most of the time and will only lead me into trouble.
In hopes of being brief, I will say this with a few words . . . for now. But damaged emotions need healing. Our wounded places need healing.
Don’t Stuff Your Stuff
There are places in us that are so broken that we don’t know what IS healthy. We cannot know the Joy of the Lord if we are not willing to work through the hard things we’ve stuffed and tried to hide. I think that’s the difference in “having it all together” which produces shallowness and inauthenticity. Compare that to living authentically, which produces vulnerability with trustworthy people and admitting our brokenness. It’s then we begin the process of renewing our minds . . . putting off the old and putting on the new . . . learning to walk in freedom and not condemnation or fear. We just have to deal with our stuff to be joyful people.
Grieving is Good for the Soul
If we’ve suffered loss, and we all have, we need to grieve. It is not possible to experience joy without working through the grief process and allowing ourselves to mourn. We can’t be emotionally and spiritually healthy if we have failed to work through our grief . . . allowing ourselves to just be sad.
The good news is that because of the HOPE we have in Christ, we don’t have to stay camped out in grief. It is a thing. It is real. It is a process that takes time and it can’t be rushed. But when we allow ourselves to mourn and pour out our hearts to God, it leads us to be deeper, better, and more joyful than we were before.
Jesus Over Everything
Pray about everything. Always. We cannot know God without time in HIs word and time spent in prayer. But for prayer to be powerful, we must confess our sins. If we are holding on to sin, our prayers for others won’t be effective and we will not know the Joy of the Lord.
Pray before planning. Pray before going and doing. Pray for your friends. Pray for your church. Pray for your neighbors.
I promise, you will find joy as you pray. Taking time to praise and worship God in prayer is vital to our spiritual lives. Pouring out our daily concerns lifts the load off of us, as we give our concerns to God. Praying for others takes our eyes off of us and helps us look to the needs of others. And we grow to love those we are praying for. We all need friends who faithfully pray for us.
Prayer helps us let go. We give things to God in prayer and He does what we cannot do.
Prayer is key to us being joyful people.
The Darn “C” Word
Control is a real issue in our hearts and lives. We want to believe we have control, but we don’t.
We want to control people and circumstances. If that is what we are basing our security and joy on, we will deeply disappointed. There is no hope in that.
Recently, I mentioned to a friend, that a few years ago I learned to lay down and sleep . . . and not WORRY about my kids (even if they were still out, because I often go to bed before they get home). Now this may seem appalling to some reading this who would never do that, but it became a necessity in my life as I was walking through a child’s rebellion. I had to learn to rest in God and His promises. Let me share with you HOW I do this.
I pray for my children and surrender them to God. I lay down in that surrender and ask God to wake me if there’s anything I need to know or do, and I sleep. He gives me rest. Sometimes He does wake me up to pray or do something else. There have been nights that this is more difficult to practice, especially as we were walking through circumstances that caused a tremendous amount of fear. Still, it was me working through the struggle to trust God, even though His ways seemed so scary. He never fails and I have to look back on that faithfulness as I move forward trusting Him and finding my security in His provision. God loves my children more than I ever could and I believe that EVERYTHING that comes into our lives will be used for His glory and our good. I release them and claim the promises of God and blood of Jesus over their lives. I can have joy trusting in God’s promises and provision. I know He loves me and will not fail me.
To know the Joy of the Lord, we have to let go of control. Daily. Hourly. EVERY. MINUTE.
Release those things we hold on to . . . release our fears . . . release our needs.
He is able.
He is our Shepherd and if you know anything about shepherds, they take good care of their sheep. God can do what we can’t.
This is what we base our joy on. God is God and we are not. If we abide in His provision for us, we will have everything we need. We are secure as we trust and obey.
False Idols Need to be Called Out
It’s really that simple. As we learn to lay down our false hope and surrender our worldly idols, our false securities, then we find true joy and peace. It’s a paradox. God’s way versus the world’s way. The more we lay down, the more we have. Thinking we have control over anything is a false hope and thus we become guilty of not acknowledging God’s authority over everything. Our job is to abide . . . His job is to provide.
When we rest in that hope and provision, we can’t help but be joyful. We don’t have to strive. We don’t have to pretend that we are okay. We can lament. We can be authentic. We can let go . . . and trust God.
We pray with humble hearts expecting God to show up. At the right time. In the right way.
We let go. We choose joy knowing we are held.
We can do this in the darkest most trying days, because He will provide what we need to endure.
We know that anyone who hopes in the Lord, will not be disappointed. I believe this promise and I am going to hold on tightly to it as I continue to write to you.
Monica and Chuck