My Faith Journey

Choosing Joy, Rejecting Negativity

flowers-in-front-of-mountain

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:

the-joy-of-the-lord-is-your-strength

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.

(Isaiah 26:3-4)

whatever-is-true

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!

~Jessica

 

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13 thoughts on “Choosing Joy, Rejecting Negativity

  1. When something which bring me depression and stress comes, I had always felt like ‘Oh,not again!’ and hated it,tried to avoid it.

    Recently God seemed to give me some breakthrough.
    We have family,friends,loving people.But sometimes close relationship with responsibility causes conflicts.As for me,I have still some difficulty about my son,for example.

    Early this week I got bad cold,and had opportunity to pray for a long time,confessing many things.

    God let me remember forgotten wonderful memories.Painted by some painful feeling,I forgot how My God filled me with blessing in my days as a christian.Surely His mercy has been there for me.

    Next is what I was noticed.
    we can be together as family and friends only while we live on the earth.After we get to heaven,maybe someday we can meet again as loving people who were allowed to be family,friends with joy.But the day we pass away, our role as someone’s earthy family,friend-supporting each other on the earth-ends.

    I do not know what happened to me,but somehow I came to realized this fact with real feeling.And It made me change.Struggle seems to become easier to accept for me,and I come to cherish joyful time with my loving people more.Because now I feel that both of them happen only in a brief period called our life.

    Crying out our feeling to God in prayer is not bad,I think.God is only one whom we can confess everything ,including what we should not open to others. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Sanae, thank you so much for your touching comment!
      I was really encouraged this morning when I read it. Yes, sometimes our relationships can begin to feel more like burdens; but as you pointed out, we can choose to remember the good times, and focus on thinking about how privileged we are to be a part of those people’s lives! Time is short–thank you for pointing that out.

      Isn’t it interesting that it was because of your cold that you were able to have an intense time of prayer and reflection? Maybe the cold was a divine device to get you to where you needed to be; and maybe it’s like that with other things in our life, too: perhaps God brings/allows difficult and painful situations to get us where we need to be. Could it be that He knows it is the only way to make us grow?

      As for crying out our feeling to God in prayer: I agree, it is not bad. Many psalms express intense feelings of sorrow, indignation, anger, and desperation. However, those psalms always seem to end up by saying, “Oh God, even though my circumstance is horrible, I still trust in You. You are a great God, and worthy of praise. You will help me; I know You will deliver me. How great You are!” So, the psalmist admits his negative feelings, but he doesn’t dwell all day long on them. He turns his thoughts in the other direction, and chooses to end by praising and thanking God.

      We can be so open and honest with God because He already knows everything about us. He wants us to confess our shortcomings so that He can cleanse us and help us. So, there is always a feeling of hope, and not despair.

      Thank you, Sanae–Have a wonderful day!
      Jessica

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      1. Yes,as you say,difficulties in our life may be allowed to happen for our spiritual grouth.
        Off course,I do not like to catch such bad cold,but God gave me time for praying so seriously by this.

        Thank you for heart-warming reply,Jessica.It made me smile!

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  2. Hi Jessica, I sincerely appreciate your blog and am just half to have people of like mind who believe in modesty. I completely share your view bring a mother of little children myself. Sometimes I feel like its just too much but like you say I understand that when I focus on negative things I lose joy. Joy is something that you must make a conscious effort to live in and yes it is only found in Christ. Thank you

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    1. Thank you, Favor Chuwang,
      I completely agree that we must make a conscious effort to live in joy, and that true joy is only found in Christ!
      It is so nice to know that you have little children, too. And I feel as you do, that it is so important to not focus on negative things. Additionally, isn’t it wonderful that we can support each other in being modest? 🙂
      I’m a little curious: is your user name your real name? I have never met anyone with that name before! What country do you come from?
      It’s nice to get to know my online friends!
      Jessica

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  3. It seems we all have similar struggles in this walk, and I think we will realize how silly we were not to encourage each other more as the Word says we should (I speak to myself here, too).

    The reading in Spurgeon for today said, ‘Many a time a believer will put himself out of humour with the Lord for some slight turn in providence, but our precious Husband knows our silly hearts too well to take any offence at our ill manners.’ I realized during my last wobble of faith in what was the Lord’s will (which for me always leads to a heavy mood), that it was surely me being silly and not the Lord being elusive. At the time though, knowing this doesn’t always help!

    I have found through experience that the sure way that there will be an immediate breakthrough in my anxiety/fear/confusion/depression etc (which is usually triggered by something specific on which I can seek the Lord) is getting to the desperate point and truly seeking His guidance as the Word. When the scripture comes (occasionally a non-scriptural word, but from a daily reading etc.) then the weight I have been carrying is immediately released, or the spiritual battle won and immediately God’s peace reigns again.

    Often, the Lord really does wait until the last minute, but He has never failed me and it is so true that if (when) we seek, we will find. As you say, we are being trained as all loved children should be, and transformed as He does what He needs to do to bring our gaze to Him alone.

    Love in Christ x

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    1. Dear Jacqueline,
      Thank you for your helpful comment!
      I like how you referred to your experience as a “wobble of faith.” That is so accurate! When we allow ourselves to dwell on the negatives (anxiety, fear, confusion, depression–the things you listed), it’s not that we’ve lost ALL faith; but, our faith is not firm and focused. Like you say, it’s wobbling.

      I agree with you that in addition to God’s word, He also sometimes uses non-scriptural readings (based on Bible teaching) to help us. Recently, I’ve been benefiting greatly from Corrie ten Boom’s Messages of God’s Abundance/Reflections of God’s Glory. Each message (which was originally broadcast over Trans World Radio) is short, but to the point and full of spiritual wisdom from God’s word and her own experiences.

      One of the reasons I wanted to write this post was because I felt convicted by what I have been reading, that we should not indulge doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, etc. because those things are not God’s will for us, and they are all ways of not believing His promises to us through Christ. So, in essence, they are all disobedient and sinful.

      Yes, our human emotions react naturally to what happens to us, and our first reaction may be one of those things. But, through Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living in us, so we are not limited to our human reactions. If we want to be mature spiritually as Christians, we must move beyond our natural human reactions, and walk in the Spirit.

      And I really liked what Spurgeon had to say. Yes, it’s nice to remember that God certainly does understand our frailties, and is very gracious with our shortcomings.

      Thanks so much!
      Jessica

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  4. Greetings Jessica,

    I am a homeschooled teenager that is currently in the process of transitioning to all skirts, however I have encountered one problem, my mother does not like it when I wear skirts and dresses all of the time. I am convicted that girls should wear long and modest skirts and am currently building up my stock of skirts so I don’t have to wear the same ones all the time. In the Bible it says that you should obey your mother and your father, but I feel so firmly convicted about this that I am not sure what I should do. Do I obey God, or my parents?

    My mother does not forbid me from wearing skirts and dresses, but she definitely does not like it.

    Sincerely,
    Avery Eleanor

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    1. Hi Avery,
      Thanks for your question!
      First of all, I’m always happy to meet another person who shares the conviction to wear skirts and dresses only!

      As for your inquiry: I see that there are a couple of points to consider:
      1) The command we are given in Scripture is for a woman to not wear what pertains to a man, nor for a man to put on a woman’s clothing. However, this command does not specifically say which style of clothes to wear. So, there is room for different viewpoints on issues of style. I would say that if the Bible clearly and unequivocally says, “Do this,” or Don’t do that,” we should usually obey God and not man. But in cases where the principle is stated, but the way we are to put that principle into practice is not given, perhaps the better approach is to compromise for the sake of peace, in situations such as yours. Sounds awful, I know, when you feel so strongly about something!

      My personal conviction is to wear skirts and dresses only. I believe them to be more modest than pants, and I think they demonstrate more clearly my femininity. I believe this firmly. However, what would I do if my husband didn’t like me wearing them all the time? That might be kind of like your situation with your mom.

      If my husband didn’t like me wearing skirts, it would be better to submit to his wishes than to cause strife in our marriage over an unclear point. I would of course try communication first. Which is what I think you should do:

      2) Talk with your mom. Ask her what she thinks. Tell her why you think the way you do. Let her know that you respect her, and will take time to consider her viewpoint. What does your dad think? This might be something all three of you could discuss together. It may be that your mom and dad consent to you wearing skirts all the time; how can you do it in a way that shows respect toward them?

      Would they prefer certain styles of skirts over other styles? What length do they like (maybe they don’t like super long, but calf-length is fine). Or maybe they are okay with skirts several days a week, but just not everyday? Or, would they prefer for you to wear them on Sunday and Special occasions only? Find a solution you can all feel happy with.

      But, what if you talk to them, and they indicate that this is something they would rather you not do? My opinion is that it would be better to do what they want. God knows your wonderful intentions. You can still try to be as modest and feminine as you can in pants. When you are older and thinking of getting married, look for a godly Christian man who will love for you to wear modest skirts and dresses, and who agrees with your other strong beliefs (as long as they are true to the Bible).

      I see this as a time of testing for you. Wearing modest skirts is great! But I think that obeying and respecting your parents right now is even greater. Can you graciously make a compromise in order to promote unity and peace in the home you are living in, and to deepen your relationship with your parents? I suspect that after they witness your willingness to honor them, they will respect you even more than they already do.

      Did that advice help you? Please tell me how things work out, if you want. If you have any more questions, or additional thoughts, I’d love to hear them!
      Jessica

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  5. Hi Jessica

    Yes, I agree! Edith Shaeffer’s book Affliction talks about how it is our reaction that is the all important thing; it is with our reaction to events of life that God is glorified (think of when there was that shooting at the Amish school and they so quickly forgave the culprit). But also in the tiny things too…if we cannot do it in the tiny things I suspect we will stumble when the biggie comes along. And spiritually speaking, who is know this side of eternity which is the ‘biggie’, anyway?!

    I have this quote on my wardrobe wall which also shows how vital it is for us to walk in the Spirit if we want to have that life that we profess to have:

    “I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath–these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely–these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non- worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; we are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.

    Dr. E. Stanley Jones, Transformed by Thorns, p. 95.

    And gosh, don’t you long for more glorious, shining reality?!

    In Christ, Jacqueline

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