There are times when joy seems fleeting and unattainable, those are the times that we must fight for joy. Joy should be our daily habit as a believer, even in tough and trying circumstances, joy in the Lord and what He has given us should sustain in our difficulties. But it is one of those “easier said than done” scenarios, so how do we develop the habit of joy even when we don’t feel like, how do we instead of our grumbling turn to joy instead when the paths get rocky and undesirable?
I’ve talked a little bit before about counting your blessings or counting it joy it tough times, specifically depression. And since this post (like most of my posts) is largely a “preaching the Gospel to myself” type of post I am revisiting the topic in a very much-needed way.
I do not know in what ways you struggle right now, I do want to encourage to reframe our suffering in a Kingdom perspective. God did not promise us easy living regardless what prosperity preachers and bad theologians may tell you. To say that God plans an uncomplicated and painless life is to say the Bible is wrong when it teaches us in 1 Peter 4 that suffering and trial is indigenous to the believer. I won’t talk much on teaching contrary to 1 Peter but I will say that God’s plan looks much different than streets of “wordly” gold but that we would rejoice as we share in Christ’s suffering and that we would Glorify God through it all and entrust ourselves to Him.
C.S. Lewis wrote about grief and suffering in his book about his late wife, A Grief Observed. I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache an about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. I know that that struggles, sadness, grief, whatever it may be feel like this all too well. It is a pervasive wart on our mind and it causes us to worry and stress and lament over things that can not be changed by our worry or stress or lamentations. C.S. Lewis also wrote these words about it which are a comfort to me; We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination. Sometimes I need that reminder that this was in the design and I need to realize that it is “part of the program”.
SO how do I take those steps to reframe my circumstances and count it all joy like the exhort from James 1:2: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. An obvious option here is to firstly look at the life of Paul who understood what that looked like. In 2nd Corinthians Paul talks about his countless beatings, imprisonments, punishments, dangers, near death experiences but says all of this not for pity but boast not in himself but in his weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. It’s not something we can do on our own, it’s about turning to a big God and trusting that He is big.
In our turning to God I think it’s important, at least for me, to remember that there are so many already good and beautiful things that I have been blessed with and I am blessed with these things because God gives these good things to me. I need a habit of joy and thanks. I need to fight for it in my life. Ann Voskamp says It’s habits that can imprison you and it’s habits that can free you. But when thanks to God becomes a habit — so joy in God becomes your life.
A very practical way to keep a habit of joy is to keep a list or journal instances of joy or gifts that God has given as they happen or as God opens our eyes to their presence in our lives. I’ve recently started again to write out the things gifts in my life that I am thankful for, the little seemingly insignificant things that might not matter to others or previously to myself. The things also that may not have seemed as blessings before but truly where. I truly have so many more joys than hardships. God is blessing the believer even through our suffering, we may not be able to see it but the Word and the Holy Spirit will reframe our minds to see the things we missed before.
I probably will share some of my private journaling via the blog and instagram using the hashtag, #thebensonsarethankful. I encourage friends to join me privately or publicly, I would love to have some friends to encourage and be encouraged by.
Today, I am thankful for:
Coffee with Whipped Cream and a husband that makes it for me in the morning.
Hot Water, our water heater has been broken, so hot water and Bubble Baths
Television, yes, television, I was able to finish this post because my children are watching Daniel Tiger.
Morning hugs from my girls
Dimples, specifically Alice’s dimples.
This Weather, I want it forever.
Provision for today
sisters that love each other
Habakkuk models this exchange beautifully. Though he had pleaded with God to save his people, he closes his book with this exquisite “even if” . . .
Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes,
even if the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
even if the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—
I will be happy with the Lord.
I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. (Habakkuk 3:17–18)
“Even If”, not just “What if”, things transpire that are out of my control “I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me”. I don’t think there is anything else to say.