When Life happens it’s not always pretty. In fact, sometimes it’s down right ugly.
There are times when the struggle is very real. In those times, bitterness, frustration, anger, and/or confusion can lead to short tempers, unkind words, fake smiles, and any number of harmful behaviors.
About six months ago, I had reach a point in my life where it felt as if God had forgotten about me. We sat helplessly by as another adoption fell apart around us. This wasn’t the first failed adoption. Natural child conceiving was difficult without assistance. However, for personal reasons I’m not going to address today, we had decided not to take that assistance.
I was left in the ashes of disappointment. God had forgotten to fulfill His promises of giving me good things. After all, that’s what American culture teaches right? Go to church, do good stuff, and God will bring you good things.
Just so you know — that’s a lie. Sorta. God does bring us good things but it’s not always what we consider to be good. Also, it has very little to do with those simple behaviors of going to church and doing good stuff. God demands more than routine and ordinary do-good behavior. Okay, I’m not gonna tangent down that line today.
Years ago, I had decided that God was sovereign. He was and is always in control. He didn’t miss anything and nothing happened with His allowing it. That didn’t mean that I had to like it. After all, His ways are beyond mine. But I made the choice to trust that God knew then and still does know what He is doing.
However, as I sat among the ashes, I was left wondering…
How is a Christian supposed to live filled with authentic joy when when the struggle is real?
I won’t claim to have it all figured out. In fact, there are some days when I apologize to my husband before the day even starts because I can feel the anxiety and frustration winning.
However, I have found three helpful tools to live authentically joyful.
This isn’t always easy. Other activities don’t stop simply because difficulties arise. However, I’ve found it vitally important to Rest in Christ.
Rest, both physical and emotional, recharges. It allows time for healing but also gives moments for God to bring to mind the good things that He has done. Those reminders aren’t easy to hear among all the noise of pain but when I listened carefully, I found God was whispering reminders of victory, good plans, and hope.
2.Pray & Praise
When I let God do His thing, I found that I was able to praise Him because I wasn’t so focused on my own stress. Did I also scream in anger, drop a few swear words, and vent all my bitterness to God? Don’t tell my pastor but absolutely! My prayers were messy and private but they opened me up for His soothing balm. Is everything hunky-dory now? Nope. But knowing that God knows how I feel means that I don’t have to dump all my bitterness and frustration on others. I can smile knowing that God knows and He’s taking care of it. Joy is present because God’s handling the pain.
When a wound is new, I want to do nothing but sit and wallow in it. And while rest is important, it’s also necessary to not quit living. Hiking, painting, community events, and other “normal” fun things had to resume. At first, I didn’t always feel like laughing but good friends who knew my struggles helped me to enjoy myself. They were patient but I had to do my part. There was a time to express my frustration and grief but the middle of a 10-mile hike was not it.
Life’s difficulties can become stumbling blocks that trip us up indefinitely in life or they can become reminders of God’s unfailing love and goodness. I’ve learned that it’s always my choice which they become. The pain doesn’t just evaporate and it often creeps back up. But by choosing to trust God and take care of myself, my smile doesn’t have to be fake and I can live authentically joyful.