One thing I’m learning is that joy isn’t necessarily something that comes to you–it’s a choice that you make.
My house can be a hectic place with six children; we live in small quarters, and we only have one car in working condition. When I feel up to my ears in stress, I can’t just run away to Starbucks. And I can’t get depressed, either. Depression is a luxury that only those without small, helpless children can indulge. It lurks at times, but I push it back, and in the process, God is showing me some awesome insights that I would like to share with you!
The Bible says this:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! . . . Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4)
If God is telling us to rejoice, then it is something we choose. We decide to be joyful. Even in the midst of hard circumstances–especially in the midst of hard circumstances.
Here’s another great verse:
Whenever I become emotionally drained from the stresses and the disappointments of life, depression sneaks in and drains my strength. I feel like a limp rag doll, lifeless and frail. I have no appetite, no desire to talk–little ability to talk–and I feel very, very tired. That is not strength; that is my human weakness.
But God is not human. Notice, it is not our human joy, that lends strength; it is the Lord’s joy. And how do we get that?
The first and most straightforward answer is: Jesus.
Jesus is not just some long-haired, blue-sashed children’s Bible story figure; Jesus is real, and He is here. He invites any who long for life, and peace, and fullness, to come to Him. He does not invite us to come to Him so that we can be powerless, broken Christians. No, His will for us is to be full of joy!
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)
Imagine: refreshing, overflowing joy! It is all found in Jesus. When we believe in Him and receive Him as our Savior, that joy is accessible to us. How wonderful! So, when we as Christians are not experiencing that joy, what is it that we are doing wrong?
Something I’ve found to be true for me, is that when I am not joyful, it is usually because I am focusing on those things I can’t control and am basically having a pity-party about my life. I complain and constantly express my disappointment to God in my prayers. I let myself believe that I am a failure, that I have nothing to offer, that I can’t ever do anything right, that other people don’t like me and never will, etc. And you know what? It’s selfish to think that way. It’s selfish because it’s me-centered.
Yes, it is okay to acknowledge our disappointments and hurts. It’s okay–and appropriate–to admit that we struggle. But, we shouldn’t stay there. We don’t have to! But how do we not stay there–how do we get out of the snare of depression? By practicing thankfulness and contentment, and by keeping our eyes locked on the Lord instead of on our problems.
…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11b-13)
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the LORD forever,
For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.
So, when I find myself starting to droop, I look up to the Lord, and I pray something like this: Jesus, thank You for my husband. He was so kind and considerate when he did _____. Thank You for this home that doesn’t leak and is warm in the winter. Thank You for my headcovering friends You enabled me to find online. Thank You for being with me always. I place my small hand in Your big one. Please guide me and keep me steady. On my own I can’t do it, but with Your help, I can. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
I find that when I actively choose to focus on thankfulness, contentment, and trust in the Lord, then joy naturally happens! No, it isn’t something that comes to me on its own; I have to do something first. But, if I do my part, the Lord does His. He truly does supply all my needs.
Listening to positive, uplifting music; reading helpful, Bible-centered literature; maintaining healthy friendships; making sure I get enough rest; eating healthy; and taking time to pray and read the Bible are all activities that help me to be joyful. I also want to note that sometimes depression can result from a chemical imbalance; in that case, it is important to consult with a natural doctor who can help find natural remedies for that problem, ideally. It would be best to do both: to seek medical (perhaps herbal) remedies while applying God’s spiritual remedies, too.
What about you? Have you struggled with feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, fear, or depression? What did you do to overcome it? Is there anything you have learned in your own journey that you want to share to help others? Feel free to share your thoughts, ladies! I love to hear them!