Joy in Trials and Suffering

There are times at the house where my roommates and I will either group text, or simply announce (when we are all together) it is an “honest *fill in your name* moment…” and then we proceed with our comment.

Well guys, honest Christi moment…I am coming into this post unsure how to even begin. Joy is something I am struggling to feel and experience in this season of life and now I am going to tell you how and why we can find joy in our suffering. I’ve been on a journey filled with being pushed outside my comfort zone, living with unknowns, and simply needing to place my faith and trust solely in Christ to guide my next step, knowing His promises are true. And it has not been easy, but I seriously would not change this season of life for anything because I am learning to live out what James tells us about counting our trials all joy. Before diving into James, I think it is essential to bring definition to this word “trial.”

According to Merriam-Webster, a trial is: a test of faith, patience, or stamina through subjection to suffering or temptation

James 1:2, count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…

Now, just reading this verse, my first thought is why? Why am I supposed to rejoice and how am I to find joy in the heat of the darkest nights during trials and hardships? First question I attempt to answer is the why. Why are we called to find joy in the midnight hours of life? I believe we have to look to verse 3 to find the answer.

James 1:3 …for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

There is purpose for the testing of our faith, it is never in vain or with no purpose. During these moments of suffering, which we are told time and time again in the bible that we will encounter suffering in this world, are meant to deepen and increase our faith. I’ve often found in my deepest suffering, my hardest trials, and in the greatest unknowns of life, I see Jesus the clearest. It doesn’t happen overnight, but at some point there is like a switch in my heart that goes on and I simply see Jesus in the middle of my midnight hour.

I’ve talked about why we ought to rejoice but I still have one other question of how? What does it look like? How do we keep joy when joy seems absent?

I wish I had some deep and insightful answer, but I am about to give the obvious.

Jesus.

Jesus is the how. I find my mind and my heart at times are clouded and my vision to see the truth of the gospel in times of trial and suffering are foggy and that is when I need to refocus my sight. The only way to do that is to look and see Jesus. I just started reading John, one of my favorite gospel accounts, and simply asking myself…who is Jesus? And Who am I in Christ? You see, my circumstances have not changed, but God is changing my heart and that is reason enough to rejoice.

I heard it said once at a concert like this. Back before GPS’s and maps, and the internet, and easy ways not to get lost, when sailors would sail at night, they would use the constellations in the sky as a guide. Which means, the darker their night, the more clearly they see the stars align. The same goes with our lives. In our darkest hour of our hardest night, God’s promises do not change or become more true, they simply shine a little brighter. We see them a smidge clearer. And when we stop looking at ourselves and our circumstances and place our eyes upward and on the cross of Christ, joy seems a little more natural.

Joy takes work, but also rests in Christ. I am struggling to feel joy. I am struggling to keep my eyes off my circumstances and keep them on Christ, but I know I can count this season of life as joyful because my trials are producing steadfastness, and I can rest in Christ, knowing this too shall pass and God is refining me and molding me more into an image of Christ.

Until next time,
Christi

Down in my heart. Where?

It’s safe to say I was feeling less than inspired on the topic of “Joy” this month. My first post was admittedly last minute, and I wasn’t exactly proud of what I’d written. It seemed forced and that made me a little angry.

I kept thinking, “You just need to write something”, “Throw some thoughts together”, “Write about the first thing that comes to mind”,”No one is going to benefit from reading this”, “Why are you even bothering”, but I was bashing myself and tearing myself down.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “We are our own worst critics”. Isn’t that the truth? We’re not content with anything less than perfection. Don’t you know that if being perfect is what you’re striving for then you are setting yourself up for failure? No one is perfect! Only Jesus was perfect, and last I checked I am for sure not Him.

So I’ve moved on from bashing myself about my previous Joy post. I realize not every post written on this blog is going to touch the hearts and lives of every person who comes across them (though that would be pretty cool, right?). Making this realization also helped me to understand something my mom told me about Joy.

What she said was along the lines of Joy not being something external, it comes solely from within. Recently I picked up a new study bible. In Philippians 4, there is a sidenote that really pairs nicely with her statement. It says,

“True contentment is the result of a heart committed to the risen Lord. Think of all the sins, pain, and brokenness that come from coveting. Adultery, murder, stealing, and lying can all be traced directly to a prior condition when hearts and minds are frustrated and discontent.
Notice what Paul says doesn’t come naturally; it is learned. The normal natural state of humanity is discontent and quiet desperation. It takes a powerful, spiritual presence to transform anxiety into joyous satisfaction. Ironically, it may be the shackles more than his freedom that schools Paul in the art of contentment. Despite the chains, Paul discovers this beautiful state of inner peace through the power of Jesus residing in Him.”

Joy, being one of the fruits of the Spirit, is a gift given to us from the Holy Spirit. Hard as we try to seek external means of joy, true contentment can only be found in Christ. By believing in Him and accepting him into your heart.

Until next time,
-Sarah

GUEST BLOGGER: The Impossibility of Joy

Keeping up with the trend of introductions before a guest blogger, today you’ll be hearing from Vicki. Vicki worked with both Christi and I this past summer at camp. I was lucky enough to have her as a roommate. She’s doing some really awesome things at another camp right now, and will be heading to Israel in the near future! We are happy to have her as a guest here, and I hope you’re blessed by what she has to share with you! -Sarah

The Impossibility of Joy

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Joy seems impossible sometimes.

Joy is hard to find when your depression hits you so hard that all you can do is sit down in the empty conference room you are supposed to be vacuuming and cry like you have a reason to. Joy is not what first comes to mind when you are told that you have a hormone disorder that is controlled by your menstrual cycle.

Joy won’t come when you are so numb from being overwhelmed that no emotion is possible and so you become catatonic, a statue that blinks and breathes.

Shame is the only emotion that makes sense to you.

Shame becomes the filter in which you live your life because you don’t deserve to feel joy.

This is where I am right now. I am struggling. I am learning to lower the screen of shame I hide behind. Some days are better than others. I will admit as I write this, today is a bad day. I don’t know how I managed to get out of bed this morning and get myself to work. My body feels heavy from trying to fight past the swamp of my mind. I completely broke down and sobbed while trying to clean the rooms I had been assigned. I have no explanation for my tears and that feeds into my shame. I have no reason to be sad, therefore, something is wrong with me. My shame tells me, I am wrong.

I know that this is not healthy and it has brought to me to the point of seeking help. But help is a process, it is exhausting, it hurts and it feels like I am losing the battle. I have Romans 12:12 taped on the wall next to my bed. I think about it constantly; it is hard to wrap my head around sometimes. “Be joyful in hope.” I understand hope and I understand joy but how do they go together? Hope can be such a crushing feeling, hoping when I don’t understand is so hard for me. Hoping when I can’t see the end is not something I do with gladness in my heart. I want this to be a possible action in my life.

Amid my tears earlier today, I thought of this verse. Oddly enough I felt hope. It wasn’t the normal heavy and confusing hope I feel; it was soft and light. It was just enough for me to remember that I am loved by God. It was a hope that gave me a glimpse into a time when I won’t feel like this. It was just a moment but it was what I needed.

Even though I had a positive moment today I still can’t bring myself to act on my joyful hope. I still feel cloudy and surrounded by shame. But I have hope that joy is not going to always be impossible. I have several baby steps to take before I see results.

Something I greatly struggle with is seeking out friendships and being vulnerable with other people. I don’t have a reason for this. I am just not in the habit of sharing everything about myself to others. I like to be in control of what people know about me. But if you were to ask me questions, I won’t lie to you. Being vulnerable is not natural to me, so I am learning to lean into the discomfort. In all honesty, it sucks. I hate it. But it is necessary. My counselor has recommended the work of Berne Brown to me. I relate so much to this woman, it is scary. Her lecture has helped me put joy and emotion in general into greater perspective.

So, this is what I will leave you with:

Joy is beautiful. Shame numbs everything. God is good. Hope is guiding me out of this mess.

Thanks for reading,
Vicki

Find our guest blogger on the internet:
instagram: @agnesrulz

Joy of The Lord is My Strength

As we start this journey in writing about joy, if I am honest, it is something I have been lacking the last few weeks. Joy has been hard to feel and at times I have wondered when that whole ‘joy comes in the morning’ thing is going to kick in.

In my community group at church, we have been traveling through the book of Philippians. Now, it does not take you very long to learn after Saul became Paul, joy became an innate characteristic of Paul and also a major theme in his letters. At times, I read Philippians and was like ‘seriously, Paul…you’re showing off…’ because he ALWAYS finds a reason to rejoice.

Why?

He is rejoicing in Christ. He is rejoicing because he KNOWS there is something far greater than these earthly afflictions awaiting us. Check it out:

Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Paul is not saying that there will be no suffering if we have Christ and everything is going to be a bed of roses and frolicking through a dandelion forrest. But what he is reassuring us is that these hard times when joy is hard to come by, we must look beyond our circumstance and gaze heavenward. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and not our circumstance, all of a sudden, we begin to realize how temporary earth is and how glorious heaven will be. My pastor recently stated it this way:

We either have citizenship in heaven or hell. This earth is not the end and when I think about where I am going to spend eternity, joy seeps through my pores and my heart slowly goes from gloom to joy.

In Philippians, Paul is writing a letter to the Philippians as he is chained up in prison…and writing about the JOY he has because the gospel is going forth.

Philippians 1:12-13: I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become know throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Now, I don’t know about you…but if I was chained up, most likely to a roman soldier, being beaten and persecuted, joy may be the last thing on my mind. I would be tempted toward anger, resentment, bitterness, wishing my circumstance was different. But Paul? No. He is still rejoicing…why? The gospel is going forth.

I could quote several other verses from not only Philippians, but all of Paul’s letters about how he rejoices in trials. But I want to bring this to a little more practical level. If we are honest, not many of us will be persecuted the way Paul was, most of us will never be chained to a roman guard in a prison cell 24/7, yet that does not mean we do not face hardships in our lives in which joy is hard to come by.

All of our trials are going to look different, some may be easier to find joy in than others. When we fix our eyes on the cross of Christ and off of our circumstance, joy seems more natural…why? Because in Christ is where we find true, genuine, and everlasting joy. I’ve heard it said many times, it is not our circumstance that needs to change, it’s our hearts. That can be a hard pill to swallow, but it is truth. God wants my heart to change and become more Christ-like and in order for that to happen, trials must come.

I’ll end with this illustration. When people make gold, they have to heat a fire so incredibly hot that it burns away the impurities covering the purity of the jewel. The same goes for us, we will be put under fire and hard times that will burn away the impurities of our hearts, bring sin into the light, it will hurt and it won’t be fun, but ultimately, we can rejoice in those times because we are being made more into the image of Christ, our Creator.

Friends, don’t lose heart because life may be hard, look to Jesus and find your joy in Him. Listen to one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, Rend Collective called “Joy of the Lord” Joy of The Lord, Rend Collective

Until next time,

~Christi

 

Inside Out: Joy!

If you’ve never seen Inside Out (or even if you have), Give this video a watch! It will give you a VERY brief intro to Joy, without any spoilers.

As you may have realized, having just gotten back from Florida, I’ve still got Disney on the brain. While on the trip I waited in a line for 35 minutes to meet Joy and Sadness from the movie Inside Out. They were adorable. Sadness ran and hid behind the cast members, Joy hugged me about three times. It was just an overall cute experience.

When I saw the preview for the movie Inside Out, I was angry. They had stolen my idea! Well not technically, but growing up I always told my brother there were little people who lived inside your head and they watched your life like it was a movie. So Inside Out seemed like a childhood tale coming true.

The movie itself is a heart-warming tale, but I’m going to focus on Joy. Joy isn’t actually my favorite character. In fact, I think Joy is kind of annoying, she’s just SO HAPPY ALL THE TIME. Which in retrospect just means she stays in character. The thing about Joy is, she’s the emotion in charge. She’s been there the longest, she runs the show. Which is awesome! It means that Riley (the girl in whose head Joy lives) is a generally happy and joyful human.

It’s interesting to me, these personifications of emotions. Joy is yellow, a color usually relating to happiness and sunshine. She his big bright eyes, and a wide happy smile. But you wouldn’t be able to say something like “Joy is annoying” if referring to the emotion you feel.

The emotion itself is most directly related to happiness. A single google image search brings up so many pictures of bright colors and people literally jumping for joy. The cool part is, even when we think all hope is lost there is the everlasting promise of joy returning.

Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” It is always possible for us to find joy again, even in the darkest of times the sun will shine another day.

Until next time,
Sarah