When was the last time you laughed?
I mean really, truly laughed, holding nothing back. Laughed until you cried and your sides hurt and you couldn’t breathe?
Do you remember the freedom in that? Feeling like just for a moment all the cares of the world were pushed aside and you were free to let go and experience unfiltered joy? (Luke 6:21, Psalm 126:2)
If you cannot recall a time like this, perhaps you are living inside circumstances of sorrow, whatever that sorrow might be.
Maybe you didn’t even realize you were residing there, until you thought about how long it had been since you laughed in such a way. Maybe you’re sitting in circumstances of your own choosing or maybe you have no control over the sorrow that has enveloped your life. Whatever the case, I don’t want you to be stuck there and more importantly, God doesn’t want you stuck there. A life of being stuck in sorrow is not His plan for you.
I’ve looked back at articles I’ve written and realized that I can be a bit emotional at times. When God moves my heart so tremendously, it stirs a deep passion within me to want to share that with others.
Phrases I often use are:
God loves you so much.
God is always with you.
God will help you through anything.
Allow Him to hold you.
Cry out to Him.
All of these things are true, but might leave the reader feeling lost and questioning~
And so today, we’re going to start with the first 3 points on our journey through circumstances to joy. I’m going to show you some things that God has used in my own life to pull me out of my sorrow and help me see hope in the joy before me.
1. If you read my Ebook you know that my first point is always the same. The difference in how this point is applied often depends on the circumstances we are in. Whatever the circumstances are, this will always be the most important thing you can do. Ask God for help. (Matthew 11:28-30, Galatians 5:22a) I will never stop asking, even when I know deep in my heart that there are things I need to change. When I know that I should be implementing the steps in this article on a daily basis, but I don’t. When I am too emotionally and physically exhausted to push through and do those things, I continually just talk to God all day long. Even on those days that I fool myself into thinking joy will never come again, so “what’s the point?”~there is one thing I know to be true no matter what~ He will never leave me. He won’t abandon me. He will pull me through this. The Holy Spirit will minister to my heart and comfort me, even when life feels hopeless and joy feels far. God is always trying to help us but too often our circumstances tune Him out. Never stop asking God to help you, even if you feel like He is silent. He is helping you without you even realizing it. (John 14:16,18, Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 26:3&4
2. Realize that when you ask for help, the circumstances that follow are God’s way of helping you~you just need to open your eyes to see it. You know what usually makes me happy? Predictable, mundane, day in, day out schedules. Being in control. Knowing that each day holds its tasks and at the end of that day Mike and I will relax on the couch. Maybe we will talk or watch a few of our favorite shows. We will laugh, we’ll go to bed, I will feel fulfilled with what I accomplished that day. I’m that kind of person. I’m a schedule and list maker. I thrive on routine. I’m a control freak. If my house isn’t cleaned up and straightened at night with everything in its place, I can’t relax. I feel uneasy and unhappy. This need to be in control is just as bad as looking at material things for happiness. I’m looking at “the control I think I have over situations” to make me happy and last March when life went out of control and spiraled downwards month after month into continual heartbreak, I lost all control and my happiness along with it. I yearn for predictable and mundane. It’s how I’m wired. The past 3 weeks have been anything but. My dad passed away unexpectedly in October. Working on packing up his things has only been part of the “crazy busy” my life has been. Long days have gone into long evenings right into early mornings and the crazy busy beginning all over again. I found myself thinking I just want a normal day at home. I want to do some laundry, bake some cookies, clean my house, sit in front of my cozy fire drinking coffee or just watch TV! But as I complained about that busyness and thought about my prayer for help, the Holy Spirit showed me that because I have been so busy I haven’t had time to just sit and think. Usually “the sitting and thinking” leads to “the missing and crying”. As my head hit the pillow each night I realized I was so exhausted that I fell asleep quickly, as opposed to laying in the dark crying. And I knew it was God. God was helping me. It might not have been a way I would’ve chosen, it certainly wasn’t an easy way, but it was God’s way and it worked. He knows my crazy, emotional, over thinker brain far better than I do. (Psalm 139:2) Jesus is continually going to God on our behalf and I now wonder how many times through the years I missed the answers to the prayers I had prayed, just because they weren’t the solution I was looking for. (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25)
3. Stop listening to yourself (John 15:11) If God in all His wisdom did not intervene and answer my cries for help, I would be overthinking everything. My emotions are continually telling my brain that things will never change. Because I’m such an emotional person, I too often let my emotions dictate my life. I think all women~ whether they want to admit it or not~ are emotional. Our lovely hormones play a big part in that. When my emotions begin to dictate what my life story is, I start to believe it. I don’t like to admit this, but quite often since my dad died I have been scared. Not scared as in fearful, but scared as in “this unshakeable heaviness and lonely feeling.” Scared as in “this dark cloud of sadness will never go away. I will never see joy again.” The beginning of each day seems to be promising as I open God’s words to me and pray, but as the day slowly creeps by and thoughts bombard my mind, as my emotions kick me over and over again~ I feel as if God is very far away. That scares me. These are the times that we must realize our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9, Psalms 94:19), Even if we are struggling to believe it, we must go back to point number 1 and talk it out with God. Stop listening to ourselves and listen to what God is speaking over us. (Philippians 3:3) His words are truth, our emotions are not. He isn’t far away. He isn’t there only in the times we set aside to kneel and pray. He is our constant companion. A friend that sticks closer than a brother. A comforter and peace maker. He is the ONLY One who understands with 100% clarity and compassion what our heart is going through. (Psalms 139:1-18, Philippians 2:5, 4:6-7, 2 Timothy 1:7, Proverbs 16:3, Luke 2:10, John 15:11)
You can’t simply “choose joy” without God. You can’t wake up and just decide “Starting today, I’m going to be happy” without God. Our strength is not enough. It will never be enough. It doesn’t matter what kind of a personality you have, Satan knows your weakness and he will find a way to steal that joy. Only Jesus is the strength of our joy. Pray about these first few points this week. Ask God to open your heart and your eyes and show you what you’ve been missing. (Nehemiah 8:10)
I am so confident in the strength and power of God’s truths and the joy they speak over our circumstances, that I am adding a second post today. Scripture that you can print out and continually read throughout your day to comfort and encourage your heart.
You can have freedom from sorrow. You can laugh again~deep, heartfelt, freeing laughter from the depths of your soul. Laughter that comes from unfiltered joy. Laughter that only comes from God and the joy that only Jesus gives. Make that your goal this week. JOY.