This Christmas, we received so many cards that pronounced, “Joy is Coming!” This was so relevant to me because I have been on a quest to find my joy. The past few years at our church has been rather difficult. We’ve had so much sickness and other issues, it has been hard to stay upbeat, if you will. Even for the parsonage family (being my family) has taken quite a hit with my struggle with chronic pain. We’ve been learning a lot about letting God be in control and trusting Him through the hard times. My family has been learning how to be more compassionate to those in the midst of struggles. Our eyes have been opened to the stress and strain that falls on a family with an invalid, not only on the one fighting the disease, but especially on the caregiver.
We are so grateful to learn these lessons, but slowly we have found our joy depleting. The past few months I have been praying and searching on how to get my joy back. Trying to stay positive with our church family without minimizing the fact that my health has been a great challenge.
I would say that I have always been an optimist and have seldom let things get me down, but the past two and half years have caused me not to be pessimistic, but definitely just silent. So lately, I’ve decided I want my joy back. Therefore, I am on a quest to find it! Here’s what I have learned thus far.
1. About a year ago, our ladies group was studying the Disciplines of a Godly Woman. One discipline was, contentment. This one really intrigued me and I read several books and articles on the subject. Mostly, I felt ‘shamed’ into being content because Jesus suffered more, others have suffered more. so .. “Shame on me for complaining.” It seemed to be something you had to make yourself do. But then I did see that we need to look at what was good in our lives and get our eyes off of the bad. I believe it was in the book “The Rare Jewel of Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs that contentment was illustrated with the story of a man who became terminally ill at 50 years of age. He said that he praised God for allowing him to be healthy for 50 years for it could have been that he was born sick and suffered through his whole life. That was definitely a valid thought for me. We need to take to heart Philippians 4:8 that says “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
2. I’ve had many “joy mentors” throughout my life. One being my mom. She always encouraged us to sing a song when things were bad or scary or whatever. This was really a way to get our minds of the present and onto other things. It’s Biblical, I believe you’ll find many times where singing brought on joy. I love the story in Chronicles 2 were Jehoshaphat instructed the choir to go out before the army singing and praising God. Do you know what happened next? There enemies got so scared to killed each other off instead of attacking the Israelites! But I have to say, it’s hard to sing a song when you are down and out. Another joy mentor, was a pastor’s wife that just exuded joy, I have always kept her in the forefront as a great mentor on how to live life. But never felt like I could live up to her joyfulness.
3. My sister sent me a “Joy Box”. It was inspired by Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts. It was neat to me, but it wasn’t until just recently that I actually read Ann’s book and got very excited. I realized that if we count our blessings, not just at Thanksgiving but every day, we will find our attitude in life becoming more and more joyful. I’ve only been doing it since November, but I have a list started of 110 blessings and I am beginning to feel anew and that joy is beginning to peek through the cracks of this dark and troubling world we live in.
4. I challenge all the ladies at church to Count Gifts with me this year. And several are getting excited as well. We’ll begin a Bible Study on 1,000 gifts this week. Hopefully, you will be hearing more about my journey towards joy.
P.S. Find out more about Ann Voskamp 1,000 Gifts here.