It’s hard to be thankful for the hard stuff that happens to us.
I mean, let’s say you just had the worst “no good horrible very bad day” on record. You’re exhausted, feeling broken and just fed up with the world. And then you get home and are like “Hey, God, thanks for all that crazy. I appreciate it.”
Um, yeah, not happening. It’s more like, give me the Netflix, I hope there’s Ben & Jerry’s in the fridge and I need my PJs! We tend to focus on a lot of the “wrong” stuff to fill us up when life gets us down. I should know, I’ve had lots of practice.
After I went through a Jaws of Life car accident that ended my life as an athlete, I was pretty angry and bitter. Basic things like walking across the room felt impossible. High-intensity activities were no longer an option for me. Laziness, self-pity and anger were my new friends.
I felt so lost. My identity as a healthy, physically fit, active athlete was taken away. I didn’t know how to become someone who was expected to live a life of low intensity, slow-moving, daily chronic pain. I felt so defeated.
Then one day, my friend James reminded me that I needed a bit of an attitude adjustment.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”James 1:2
It was pretty hard to find joy in between the years of daily doctor and physical therapy visits, not to mention the ridiculous amount of pain pills necessary to function and a high-profile job that required me to pull a lot of excellence and leadership skills out of my butt in the middle of it all.
Plus, did I mention I was in my first year of marriage?
Life was a mess. I spent a lot of sleepless nights reading and watching those late-night preacher shows. It was either that or those ridiculous infomercials. You can only handle so much crazy, just saying!
“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”James 1: 3-4
I have a long way to go in “perfecting” my endurance as a joy seeker.
But once I began to embrace my new reality things changed. Sure, it totally sucked I couldn’t run anymore, climb rocks or jump out of perfectly good airplanes. But I found peace when I truly realized that I was still alive. What a gift! I could walk. I had mobility. I had the freedom to move all my body parts, even though it hurt like mad, they still worked. Plus, I fully began to embrace my identity as being the daughter of a King.
Somehow in the middle of all my bitterness and pain, I had forgotten to embrace each day as a gift.
Once I began focusing on all the wins instead of the losses, it was easier to find joy in the middle of a situation that should have defeated me.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”James 1: 5-8
Seek joy and you will (eventually) find it!
I began asking God to show me the good in the middle of my pain. He continued to bless me in more ways than I can explain.
Most of the pain specialists, doctors and nurses saw something noticeably different in me too and would ask how it was I could walk around with such a light heart in the middle of such intense pain. That’s when I got to tell them about my friend Jesus! I was living out my faith surrounded by so many opportunities to share with non-Christians. It was amazing.
Joy makes you smarter.
As a bonus, finding joy in the middle of that mess gave me the wisdom and confidence to do it all over again when the doctors told me I would need surgery for thyroid cancer. Joy gave me the courage to endure the damage to my vocal cords after the surgery when I wasn’t sure I’d ever talk again. It was that same joy I clung to when my forever family was lost due to a failed adoption and my life turned upside down with grief.
Yucky stuff happens to all of us.
We are imperfect, messy human beings in desperate need of a Savior. My mess may look different than whatever you are muddling through, but we’re all doing our best to navigate this crazy life. And we all need to seek more joy.
I feel blessed to have endured my hardships. I’m not in any way, shape or form happy that I will never run again or went through cancer or had my vocal cords damaged or lost my forever family. Hello, what crazy person would be happy about any of that?
God allows all the hard things in life to strengthen our faith in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
Jesus is my rock and I’m so blessed to have Him as my Savior. I truly don’t know how people make it through this life without leaning on Jesus.
Next time life hands you lemons, remember to embrace the joy!
3 Ways To Embrace Joy When Life Is Hard
Be an encourager
You aren’t the only one who is going through hard stuff in life. It’s easy to become self-absorbed and remain focused on your pain. But when you keep your eyes fixed on others and pour into loving the people God places in your life, it’s amazing how much lighter our burdens become. There’s beauty that comes from being the hands and feet of Jesus to others in their trials.
Be authentic with the Lord.
Tell God you’re mad at him if you are. Don’t hide it. He can take it. God has made His love known for me time and time again during a hard season because I choose to run to Him in my suffering. I picked up my Bible, even when I felt like throwing it across the room.
I have chosen to run to Jesus in my grief because He’s wired deep within me an ache to find hope in words that come from Him alone. God is so good, loving and patient, even when we are angry, bitter and hurt. Healthy relationships require authenticity, why would it be any different with our Creator?
Give yourself grace lots and lots of grace.
God’s grace is a gift. Don’t be focused on the ONE THING you can’t have. Instead, search the world around you, there are so many good things happening. Count your blessings. Like literally, count them. Write them down on paper and look at them every hour if needed until your brain remembers that you’re blessed even when life is really, really hard.God will use every mess, every heartache for His glory, even if we don’t see it this side of heaven. Click To Tweet
What is it that you are struggling with today?
You can turn to God when life is at its hardest. He is absolutely crazy about you. He will never abandon you. There’s nothing you’re feeling or going through that surprises our Mighty God.
Rest in Jesus and embrace the joy around you!