Tips for Choosing Joy in Hard Times

Choosing joy is exactly that: a choice. Use these tips to train yourself to be able to choose joy today–especially in hard times.

Today choose joy

CHOOSING JOY IN GOOD TIMES IS EASY

My favorite place to be is at the beach. Toes in the sand, wind in my hair, sun on my cheeks, waves crashing in the distance. Eventually the beach gets a little hot and I need to cool off in the water. I may scoot my chair up right as the water hits the sand so it splashes on my legs while still reading my book, or walk out just far enough get my bathing suit damp to lie out some more in the summer heat. 

Something calls me back to the beach each year. It’s a place of reflection, renewal and relaxation for me. I could sit and stare at the ocean or close my eyes and listen to its sounds for hours. I don’t need to bring anything with me to enjoy the beach (except maybe a little sunscreen).

My worries and fears seem to melt away with the hot sun when I look out and think about what it is I’m really seeing. Intense power, creation at its finest, great mystery, endless possibilities. A reminder that there is a greater power at work in the world. That God formed and shaped all of this before He made me.

The beach is an easy place for me to be joyful.

However, I can’t make it to the beach everyday. It would be convenient to escape to our joyful places whenever we wanted, but even then our circumstances don’t always allow us to a take a break from thinking about them.

So how do we access joy when life gets hard?

Today choose joy

CHOOSING JOY IN BAD TIMES IS HARD

I ran across a journal entry from a few years back on a particularly hard day where I was faced with a decision. Would I choose joy in this awful season in my life?

March 21, 2017

After a week of being in and out of doctors offices and a trip to the hospital, I was so frustrated that I was still struggling to breathe and throwing up from the pain. I decided that even though I didn't understand why God was allowing this to happen, I would trust him and choose joy anyway. The next day I got outside more, and felt a peace and calm I hadn't in weeks. I stopped crying about it. The pain slowly started getting better from the third round of steroids I had started a few days earlier. That day the specialist called asking if I could come in Monday instead of in six weeks because there was a cancellation. 

The meeting went awesome. Loved the doctor and he's working with my holistic doctor to help me get back on track. It will be a long process of healing, but as we're learning more about my body and the causes of these flare ups, we'll be better able to get them under control.

But the lesson God continues to remind me and my family of is that whether or not we understand, whether or not we feel heard, he is sticking with us and giving us peace when we ask for it. I know that God can do great things through bad circumstances and I am renewing my trust in him every hard day I have. Today is a great day for me mentally and physically and I am so thankful for the friends and family that have been so helpful and encouraging about this frustrating condition over the past two years. 

My advice to others is this: Look for God. Cry out to God and get angry if you have to, but know this: He is good. Don't stop talking to Him. God is good all the time. All the time God is good. He won't always offer you physical healing, but he is there for spiritual healing if you'll just trust that he can. I'm still not sure I like that lesson, but I have to believe it's bigger than my small understanding of how the world works. Open your eyes. He's there!

I sit back and wonder how I could have chosen joy in that moment.

I don’t remember writing those words—in fact, that time seemed like one big depressing blur. But there I was—an actual miracle choosing joy and experiencing peace in a time I should have crumbled. I was even giving advice to hypothetical people in this entry, that I can now share with you!

How gracious is our God.

Today choose joy

JOY IS SUPERNATURAL

Just a few months later, I wrote these words:

July 25, 2017 

Thank the Lord I am not where I was--lost and without a diagnosis. Thank you to all the people in my life that held my hand and encouraged me on my darkest days. Still have a ways to go but I no longer feel like I'm drowning with no end in sight. The Lord is teaching me so much through this experience regardless of my joy or anger toward him at the moment. One thing I know, is that he is real and he is with me. 

I don’t want life to just happen to me, I want to enjoy my life. To live with purpose and intention. To recognize that there can be a plan for how to deal with bad days, tough times and that it has to do with choosing joy, remaining calm and trusting in the Lord.

And in that, to notice the little things, like celebrating my children, who watched in confusion as I suffered and worried each and every day. Who in frustration and love reached out to comfort me. Whose words of encouragement and acts of silliness cheered me up and helped me focus on what I was fighting for on the worst of my days. 

Looking back, I see the seeds God was planting that I have witnessed come to fruition over the past year. I didn’t know what the purpose was for my pain, I just trusted one step at a time. As I continue to improve, but still have difficult days in this disease process, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and his willingness and ability to shape good things out of bad situations.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TELL US ABOUT JOY?

Our Joy Comes From the Lord

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my JOY may be in you, and that your JOY may be full. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’” John 15:10-12

We Experience Joy Because of His Goodness

“Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the forest sing for JOY before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:32-34

Joy is Found in Our Savior

“And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they REJOICED exceedingly with great JOY.” Matthew 2:9-10

We Find Joy in His Presence

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of JOY; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Joy Gives Us Renewal

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but JOY comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5

Our Faith Gives Us Joy Which Produces Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all JOY and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

We Find Strength Through Our Joy

“For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for JOY. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:6-7

Joy is Produced from Following the Holy Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

We are Joyful When We Praise Him

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord–let us make a JOYFUL noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a JOYFUL noise to him with songs of praise!” Psalm 95:1-2

Joy is Found in Perseverance

“Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2

MY ADVICE FOR CHOOSING JOY IN DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES

While everyone’s situation is different, here are my personal tips on how I was able to choose joy and continue to in hard times:

  1. MEDITATE
  2. USE POSITIVE SELF TALK
  3. REST AND RELAX
  4. LEARN YOUR TRIGGERS & WAYS TO REACT IN HEALTHIER WAYS
  5. FIND AN ENCOURAGING PERSON
  6. FOCUS ON POSITIVE THINGS
  7. DON’T STOP PRAYING

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