Finding joy despite hardship

I know this might sound too simple.  I know you could be rolling your eyes as you read this. But give this a chance.  A huge key to regaining some of your joy during challenges or after a heartbreaking event is…to focus on the things for which you can be thankful.

All of us tend to focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have.  By doing so, we become bitter, jealous, and depressed women.  Now if you actually enjoy being bitter and depressed, you just go right on concentrating on what’s wrong in your life.  However, there is a better way to live.  God recommends it in the Bible.  It’s called being thankful for what you do have.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances“.  This means disciplining your mind to focus on what is good and right and beautiful. God puts it this way in Philippians 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Do you have shelter and plenty of food to eat each day?  Wow! You’re in the top 10% of the entire world!  Do you have someone in your life (husband, mother, friend, child) who loves you?  Wonderful!  Do your legs and hands work?  Can you see, hear, and taste?  Thank God for the health that not everyone enjoys.  Has God made himself known to you and drawn your heart to him?  Awesome!  That means he thinks you’re special and he decided before the beginning of the world to select you to adopt as his child!

Yes, there is a time to grieve losses in our lives.  But we can’t stay camped out there!  Let’s make a concerted effort to focus our minds on being thankful.  Little by little, you may find your joy returning, even during hard times.

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God sees your distress and cares

We all go through challenging days…whether in your marriage, with your kids, with finances, at your job, etc.  It’s at those times; we tend to feel so alone.  We desperately need to know that God notices our distress.  We need to know that He is with us and that He cares.

Well, despite what Satan is whispering in your ear…that nobody cares…that you’re all alone…that your broken heart will never get better…the Bible tells a different story!  I find so much comfort in these verses:

  • The Lord is close to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18)
  • Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
  • You are the God who sees me (Genesis 16:13)
  • He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3)
  • Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.  Psalm 103:2-4

Cause of illness & dysfunction

I had a bit of a revelation awhile several year ago and it has stuck with me.  A medical doctor appearing on my talk show (Rita Hancock) said much pain and many addictions stem from lies we have believed since childhood.  These lies can serve to cause such depression, stress, or heavy burdens that we end up carrying the weight of the lies in our body (physical pain) or we end up trying to escape the burden of the lies by numbing out through various addictions, such as overeating, alcohol, etc.

So I tried the simple exercise she suggested for those who have chronic pain, illness or addiction problems.  She said to sum up your current emotions in just one word. For me, the word that popped into my mind was “worry”.  Then she said to reflect back on when you recall feeling that same emotion for the very first time in childhood.  Bam!  I was taken right back to about 5 years of age when I recall feeling worried about the fighting and verbal abuse in my family.  And, I suddenly realized that, at the tender age of 5, I felt like I needed to solve the problem.  For some reason, I believed the lie that I was personally responsible for making peace between people and making everyone happy.  What a lie!  I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that Satan would enter a painful moment of our childhood and give us a wrong interpretation. After all, Jesus describes Satan in John 8:44 this way…”When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Fast forward to current day, and I can see how I’m still subconsciously carrying this same wrong burden.  And it’s too heavy!  And it isn’t my responsibility!  I am not responsible for the relationships between my children or between my relatives.  I am not personally responsible for my kids’ “happiness”.  The question for you is:  Have you believed a lie that has caused you to carry some kind of burden that God never intended you to carry?

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How to refresh your weary soul

Are you feeling weary, discouraged or burdened?  Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated with others or even yourself.  This remedy might seem strange, but God says that when we meditate on His principles and begin applying them in our lives, our souls will be refreshed!  Psalm 19:7-8 says “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Maybe your soul is weary or discouraged because you’ve been trying to handle difficult people and circumstances with your own wisdom.  Maybe it’s time to search out God’s wisdom instead.  For instance, if you are depressed about your husband’s continuing verbal abuse toward you and your children, maybe your soul will be refreshed as you read God’s instructions for dealing with someone who is sinning against you.  You might want to read Matthew 18:15-17.  

Perhaps you’re dealing with a rebellious child who isn’t responding to your explanations about why he or she should listen to you.  Maybe your soul will be refreshed as you read God’s instructions for molding your children into people of character.  You might want to read Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” 

How to find fulfillment & purpose

I seem to bump into quite a few women who seem to either struggle with discouragement and mild depression or simply feel unfulfilled.  When it comes to both these conditions, there aren’t necessarily simple answers, but I’ve come to realize that taking one particular step often brings significant help.  That step is to get outside yourself and begin serving those less fortunate.  Yes, really!

This is God’s instruction to us all.  In fact, He says in Isaiah 58 that the kind of “fasting” that he desires is not to appear super religious by denying yourself food or pleasure.  Instead he desires us to “loose the chains of injustice”…to share your food with the hungry…to provide the poor wanderer with shelter. He says “then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear” (Isaiah 58:8)

Is it time to stop focusing on what’s wrong with your circumstances and to look for opportunities to serve those in need all around you?  I can almost guarantee that you WILL become more fulfilled when you begin helping others.  You will find purpose in each day. You will find soul-deep joy along the way. Try it!

The 3 things that lift gloom

When life throws you an unexpected curveball, it’s pretty easy to sink into depression, bitterness, victimhood or gloom.  For some of you, that curveball is catching your husband connecting online with another woman…or your teen developing a drug addiction…or a cancer diagnosis for you or a loved one.  For me, my latest curveball was my husband succumbing to covid and passing away unexpectedly.  I became a widow, and suddenly by whole life changed.  My partner and companion in life was gone in an instant.

As I was taking a walk the other day and grieving with the Lord, I sensed him prompting me to do 3 things in order to move forward with joy and purpose in my life, despite the curveball that came my way.  He whispered to me, “Tackle what needs to be taken care of each day, dwell on what is actually good in your life and let yourself enjoy those things, and look for the opportunities I’m giving you each day to partner with me in expanding my kingdom and being a great reflection of Jesus.”

Wow!  As he spoke those 3 things to my heart, I could tell my mood started to shift.  Instead of focusing on the loss or the heartbreak, God was giving me the recipe to break free from gloom and embrace the purpose and joy he still has for me.  Let’s review those 3 things along with the Bible verses that correspond to each instruction:

  1. Tackle what needs to be taken care of today…just today.  Don’t focus on the “what ifs” of the future.  Matthew 6:33-34  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
  2. Focus on the blessings you DO have in your life and allow yourself to actually enjoy those things.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
  3. Ask God to show you the opportunities he has for you each day to partner with him in reflecting Jesus and expanding his kingdom.  This gives you joy and purpose!  Colossians 4:5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

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