That's not to say there's not some serious soul-shaking circumstances going on in the lives of those close to me. There's a time for everything. We've read Ecclesiastes. Sung with The Byrds. Wept, laughed, mourned, danced. So, even in my season of relative peace, I still manage to fret. To get bogged down with multitudes of crazy and overwhelming issues around me.
In all those seasons, sometimes I forget that there's one season that remains constant:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Phil 4:4
It's time to fight for joy.
In the face of persecution, bride burning, divorce, human trafficking, death, that attitude doesn't just happen. It takes some deliberate effort. It is a gift of the Lord to be sure, and He equips us to receive it. But it's like exercise- if you don't use it, you lose it.
So, if you are looking for some exercises to help strengthen your joy muscles, here are five ways to seek joy where it may be found:
1. Read. I know- bo-ring. There are some totally rad Christian authors out there that just rock. I yell "yes!" when I read them. Underline like a madwoman. Still, it ain't nothing compared to the Bible. Having a hard time finding joy and needing a place to start? Here is a handful of passages:
Phil 3-4; 2 Corinthians 5; John 14-17; Psalm 18; Psalm 138.
2. Pray. Right- I'm sure this is another shocker for you. C'mon, Lauren. Read the Bible and pray. Surely you can come up with something more exciting. Actually, no. You can read and pray standing on your head if you want to make it more demanding, but you won't find anything as effective as talking with the Lord and hearing His Word.
I had a friend ask me once, "How do you know when you have prayed for something long enough? When do you just need to let it go?" Well, it's different for everyone and every circumstance, but Luke 18:1-8 gives us a pretty clear answer:
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Pray with open eyes. He will deliver you.
If you have a hard time remembering to pray- give yourself a visual or audial aid. A clock chiming. Stopping at a red light. A text message notice. A song. When you hear or see your cue, start praying.
3. Let go and LOVE- Of course taking time to think of others takes your mind off your own problems, but this is more than that. So often we are afraid to love others because we don't think it will make a difference, or we will look foolish. Or there is this pressure to somehow win them to Christ. Here' the deal: Christ didn't command us to win anyone. He commanded us to love everyone. He alone is the winner of souls, and that frees us up to love.
Imagine just showing someone love without strings attached. No worries over reputation. No pressure. Just a plate of cookies and a smile. Brainstorm ways to love a new person in a new way. You can't solve every world problem, but you can love another person.
4. Get Creative- David wrote psalms, rain or shine. We each have a deep-seeded creativity planted by the Master Creator. It's cathartic. Turn on the music. Sing. Dance. Even if you're horrible at them. Bake or cook. Invent. Draw. Write. Photograph. And give it as a gift to God. This is for you, Lord. It's not much. But it's Yours.
5. Praise. Praise. Praise.- Pause and remember the good things God has done, is doing. And praise Him for it. Out loud. Really. Say it out loud. May be awkward. You might want to put in your earbuds and do it so people will think you are just singing along with the music. Vocalize it. Take it from your head and put it in your whole body. Write it down. Share it. Check out Phil 3-4 again. Give thanks all the time.
And when all this seems like a bit too much to chew, the struggle for joy is just too hard, Phil 4:4-9- the Rejoice in the Lord Always passage- gets that, and gives us three promises to cling to. Hold fast to them and know you are never alone.
The Lord is at hand. (v. 5)
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (v. 7)
The God of peace will be with you. (v. 9)