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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Are you missing out on your life?

We are all so prone to dwell on what we don’t have.  For instance, you might spend lots of mental time and energy longing for a more romantic husband.  Or maybe you rehearse over and over again the many qualities your husband lacks!  You may be a single woman reading this devotion, and you may be spending lots of energy and time trying to capture a man who can become your husband!

Here’s the thing.  We can easily spend so much time focusing on what we don’t have…and trying to manipulate people and circumstances to get what we want…that we don’t even enjoy the many blessings God has actually given us.  We can miss out on the life we have!

Colossians 2:6-7 reminds us, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  You and I need to focus on the many things for which we can be thankful.  What good people has God placed in your life?  How has God provided for you?  Dwell on those things and be thankful.  When you stop focusing on what you don’t have, you’ll finally be able to truly enjoy all the blessings that you do have!

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4 ways to bring laughter & joy to home

I don’t quite remember where I heard this, but it has stuck with me even though I heard it 20 years ago.  Make it your aim to fill your house with so much love and joy that the laughter of your family bounces off the walls!  Wow!  Don’t we all want that?  I know I do.

So how do we get there?  I believe the Bible reveals several keys to bringing joy and laughter into our homes.  First, choose an attitude of hope instead of dwelling on a big, hairy list of all the things that are wrong in your life!  Proverbs 10:28 says “The hope of the righteous brings joy“.    Second, eliminate some things from your schedule if you are becoming grumpy due to exhaustion and stress.  Isaiah 30:15 says “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”   And third, have a sense of humor!  Be playful. Allow yourself to be goofy sometimes!  Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine“. 

Oh, and one more thing.  If you are holding bitterness and resentment against your spouse, deal with that.  If it is the result of something that happened a long time ago, you need to let it go!!  If it’s the result of an ongoing pattern of sin against you, then you will need to respectfully confront your husband.  Ongoing resentment will suck all the laughter and joy out of your home.

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Try using God’s unusual formula!

Recently, God has prompted me to consider who is truly on the throne in my life.  Am I really putting God at the center of my focus, or is everything actually about me?  Drat.  I have to be honest and say that when it comes right down to it, I tend to filter everything in my life and my relationships through the question “what will make me happy”.  How about you?

What if we changed the question?   I am suggesting that we start looking at our husbands, our marriage, our children, our work, and everything through the question “how can I please God at this moment?”  I believe this could radically change our relationships.  In Matthew 6:33 Jesus reminds us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well“.  In other words, we should strive to please God in all we do, and we can trust Him to meet all our needs in return.

The world tries to convince you to focus on you.  The message is “you should focus on what makes you feel happy at the moment and you will be fulfilled.”  Unfortunately, this “formula” almost never works.  The Bible turns that equation upside down.  God tells us to focus on pleasing Him even when it doesn’t seem like you will be happy, and then you will indeed find true fulfillment and joy. 

What if you were to ask the Lord to show you how HE wants you to treat your husband this week and how HE wants you to handle difficult situations with your husband?  I wonder how your marriage would change?  Shall we try God’s upside-down formula this week? 

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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