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.

** or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW

God won’t waste your pain

Christmas can be one of the happiest times of the year. However, it can also be one of the hardest times of the year for those who have lost a loved one, or find themselves alone in a new town, or have little money to buy presents because of a recent job loss. No one really embraces heartbreak or suffering.  We usually do everything we can to avoid it, and we often complain to God when He doesn’t put an end to it at our first request.  But maybe he is allowing the suffering for a really good reason.  Maybe He has purpose even when he allows us to experience disappointment or even heartbreak.

I think of several stories from the Bible.  Joseph’s story in Genesis, chapters 37-50, is a prime example.  Even though Joseph endured great suffering for many years as he wrongly spent time in prison, God had a masterful plan he was executing behind the scenes….a plan that would involve Joseph rising to great power in Egypt and helping his family gain food during a famine in Israel.  I also think of the great apostles Peter and Paul.  They were beaten and thrown into prison, but God later miraculously freed them from prison and their story inspired many to follow Christ.

The Bible reveals that there is purpose in suffering and heartbreak.  Romans 5:3-5 says “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”   So, perhaps instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or feeling anger toward God, maybe you and I should choose to trust God even in the midst of heartbreak.  Maybe we should ask God to use our suffering to build our character.  God won’t waste your heartbreak.  He will use it to do something beautiful.

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.

** or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW

This helps during heartbreak

As I’m writing this devotional on November 16, 2021, it has officially been one week since my beloved husband Raul passed away unexpectedly from covid.  My world is turned upside down.  Everything changed in an instant.  The grief was and is intense.  It comes in waves.  There is a gaping hole where we used to partner together in daily life and in ministry.  The love of my life is gone, and although I rejoice that he is with Jesus, I can’t help but feel like this is all so unfair.

Perhaps you are going through something equally as devastating; different, but still devastating. You may have a prodigal teen who is getting into trouble with drugs. You may have just received a cancer diagnosis that has rocked your world.   You and I will definitely need to grieve the losses in our lives.  Sometimes we mourn the actual loss of a loved one, and other times, we need to grieve the loss of what we thought our life or our health or our family would be like. 

This morning, when I was trying to worship God through my pain, he gently gave me a different perspective that helped me quite a bit, so I would like to share it with you in the hope that it will somehow help you even a tiny bit as well.   As I was grieving and asking him the “why did you allow this to happen” question, he whispered to me “But I gave you a gift that you didn’t deserve.  I gave you 16 wonderful years with Raul.”  Mind-blown.  Perspective shifted.  I suddenly realized that I’m a sinner who has made mistakes in my life, and yet God, in his extravagant kindness, chose to bless me with a gift I didn’t deserve…for 16 years.  It made me thankful.  Instead of sinking into depression and bitterness, I realized that God blessed me beyond measure with 16 great years. 

God’s kindness to me reminded me to stop fixating on my pain and to start thinking about what I should be truly thankful for.  Then this verse came to mind.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”   Even though you are going through something painful, can you take a moment to remember ways that God has blessed you?  He IS a loving God.  He blesses us more than we deserve.

** or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO BELOW