Raise your hand (or some praise hand emojis) if you’ve felt like you’ve been fighting the fight to find the JOY in this seemingly never-ending season of pandemics, political debates and injustices. Just me?
A wise friend shared something when the pandemic began that has been transformative for me -- something I’ve continued to reflect on during these long and challenging months.
She shared, “The enemy knows that in the end, he loses. But he knows that he can come for your joy. So, every day, just pray, ‘Lord, today I retain my birthright to joy.’”
The Lord has promised us joy when we remain in Him (Psalm 16:11, Ecclesiastes 2:26).
But please know, there is a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is fleeting and can, depending on the circumstances, be self-serving. But our joy comes from the Lord. Joy is something that is within us! We can feel joy even in the midst of pain. It is a special gift the Lord gives to His people when they remain in Him.
“Consider it a great JOY my dear brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1: 2-4)
Even the apostle James tells us that we are to be JOYFUL when we experience trials because we know that those trials are going to produce something beautiful in us and will be used for God’s glory.
But let’s be honest, this is easier said than done. Even if we truly believe the Lord can use our pains for His glory, it’s unlikely any of us would purposefully choose to go through these hardships. Working to “consider that great joy” in the midst of our trials is, in fact, work. So what are we to do?
How do we practically take the time to be intentional about letting joy come in and permeate our hearts, minds, and souls?
1. Get Into God’s Word.
This cannot be emphasized enough. The Bible is God’s love letter to us and it is our nourishment. It is our lifeline, and it is our ultimate source of joy in the midst of pain. And here’s the thing: when it feels hard or nearly impossible to open up your bible, that’s when you need to do it most. It’s not always easy, but there’s never been a time where I’ve finished spending time with God and thought to myself, “man, that was a waste of time.”
Quite literally, every single time I spend time with God, even if only for a few minutes, I walk away feeling a sense of lightness and refreshment.
Find a special time during the day to prioritize your bible reading. Can you sneak it in while your morning shower heats up? Or have the Bible App recite your daily scripture during that bowl of cereal? Perhaps you could find time to read The Bible while your kiddos have a morning nap or quiet time?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Equip yourself for success by feeding the Holy Spirit with Scripture so He can strengthen you.
2. Find A Way To Serve Others.
Jesus Himself said that the most important commandment is to Love God and to Love Others. And one of the greatest ways we can show our love for God is by the way we show our love for others.
I realize the most joy when I shift the focus off of myself and onto others. If you are able, find ways that you can safely get out and serve in your community. Many of your local nonprofits need the extra help right now and might feel the strain of a loss of volunteers, loss of revenue, or a lack of engagement.
Find ways to serve with your children. Serve your neighbors by running errands for an elderly or immunocompromised family, mowing someone’s lawn, or baking some cookies for a neighbor, just to bring a smile to their face.
If you still don’t feel comfortable getting out and physically serving right now, there are plenty of other ways to serve in a safe, socially distant way.
You can write encouraging notes to friends and family and send them in the mail. And there’s never been a better time to sponsor a child living in poverty. It’s estimated that tens of millions of people who have straddled the poverty line will fall back into a cycle of extreme need as a direct result of this pandemic. They are losing jobs, education, food -- everything that is already hard to come by when you live in poverty.
Not only do you foster a meaningful relationship that will bless both the child your sponsor and yourself, but you also directly impact a child in poverty that is being adversely affected by COVID-19.
3. Last But Not Least, Create A Joy + Gratitude Journal.
It can be so easy to focus on the negative and the difficult things around us these days. We are inundated with “bad news” all the time. By taking the time to sit down and intentionally write down the things that you are grateful for and the things that bring you joy, you begin the process of rewiring your brain to focus on the good news, not just the bad.
Whether it’s a note in your phone, a little notepad on your nightstand, or actually buying a physical journal for you to log these things in -- the intentionality is what really matters. Additionally, when we go back and we look at the list we’ve created, we are able to reflect on God’s goodness and His mercy and blessings in our lives in big and small ways.
Some days it might feel harder to write that list and. On those days, I typically write my thanks for the breath in my lungs and that the Good Lord woke me up today. That I’m thankful for my salvation and the hope I have in Him.
Some days your list might be a mile long. And some days might feel a bit more silent. But the habit and practice of writing your joys and gratitude’s down regularly is key. I challenge you to try it for a week and see what happens!
Fight for JOY when it seems hard. Pray, ‘Lord, today I retain my birthright to joy.’”