Joy is an easy topic to reflect upon when life is going well. It is obviously much more difficult to develop it when we actively face adversity. There’s an old saying that smooth seas make poor sailors. I personally think that joy tends to be much more lasting if we cultivate it when the going gets tough!
It’s a no-brainer that humans like to be comfortable. We rarely willingly choose misery without some future greater good in store. Likewise we often seek out comfort and pleasure, avoiding pain and suffering at all cost. Not to sound too philosophical, but I think this is all because we are very emotional sorts of creatures. We go with our “gut” feelings. We may be happy one moment and have it taken away the next. We let our emotions guide us. We don’t want to look on the bright side when things look dark.
So when we face adversity, I think a topic like joy is one of the last things we would think about or seek to pursue! I’ve definitely noticed this in my own life. Why choose hope when things look hopeless? Joy may seem unattainable when life is genuinely tough.
Christmas can be a tough time for a lot of folks. Busyness, family conflict, and death can all leave empty seats around the dinner table. Sometimes we wish for what could have been and just feel let down by the holidays. Many face incredible stress between loads of school and church activities. Maybe even as you are reading this, you find yourself thoroughly in one of those “tough times” or seasons of life. How can you receive God’s gift of joy this year? What are some practical steps to take?
To expand on yesterday’s sermon, here are some helpful reminders to develop joy in your life, especially through tough times…
God exists regardless of whether or not I feel God.
As such emotional creatures, we feel “distant” or “close” to God depending on our personal feelings. Even if you don’t “feel” God right now, God still exists and has a purpose for you. I find comfort in this affirmation, especially for those tough times of life. God is still there even if you temporarily lack the emotional connection.
People and situations may change, but God’s love for me remains the same.
Whether a fallout with a friend or a cancer diagnosis, troubling times often arise through personal relationships or when things that just “happen.” We are unable to 100% control absolutely everything around us. For many people, this is troubling to think about. For Christians, it is rather liberating. Even if you witness change and challenges all around you, rest assured that God will remain the same. Joy begins to grow when we find our identity, purpose, and hope in God’s kingdom instead of other people and situations.
God actually promised that life will be tough.
In the gospels Jesus frequently spoke about how the world will hate his disciples. If we truly follow God, chances are we will face pushback or hardship. Tithing means sacrificing a part of our financial life. Clean speech is an oddity in our foul-mouthed world. Kindness seems illogical considering how hateful other people often behave. Sometimes the “tough times” we experience are simply a part of following the standards of God’s kingdom. For the Christian, joy frequently goes hand-in-hand with adversity.
Don’t set your foundation on your emotions. Build your life up in Christ.
We should always have our foundation rooted in God. If you base your life off of what you feel in the moment, you are going to have a tumultuous sort of existence. Instead, fix your eyes upon God and seize the joy that Jesus can grant us. If you look for joy like any other emotion, you will be let down. If you seek joy in God’s kingdom through a relationship with Christ, you will discover that this bring true joy.