Life is hard. Hard. And, friends, it’s not getting any easier.
This isn’t a shock to God. In fact, the Bible talks about how we should expect trials and difficulties (1 Peter 4:12).
The good news is that He uses these trials as the conduits for beautiful spiritual growth. The Bible talks about that quite a bit too (Romans 5:3, 1 Peter 1:6-7, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
However, the problem is that we often don’t see that growth until after the trial ends. Hindsight may be 20/20, but during the difficulties our spiritual “vision” can easily become clouded and downright murky.
And joy? That can feel very, very far away.
But is it? Is joy really far off during life’s biggest challenges?
I want to testify that authentic joy can be found in all life circumstances–even during the darkest trials. I know because my husband and I have walked through several:
- chronic illness in marriage,
- scary health issues with our kids,
- extended unemployment,
- intense parenting battles,
- miscarriage, and so many more.
I’m not here to promise that you can avoid the pain of a trial.
But, oh, how I want to help you to discover supernatural joy, contentment–even peace!–while you’re caught in the storm.
Joy During Trials: It Comes Down to One Question
How can we find joy during trials? It’s all about how we answer this question:
“What will you choose to savor?”
Another way to ask would be, “What thoughts will you choose to let dominate your mindset?” What will you allow yourself to ruminate on when the test results come back positive, when you receive that rejection letter (again), or when you have absolutely no idea how things will work out?
The quiet, secret thoughts (played day after day) that you choose to savor will be the greatest influence on your joy level during a trial.
What you choose to dwell on during a given moment will either free you to experience God’s joy and peace; or it will hold you prisoner to your fears.
Yes, our thoughts have that much power.
But discovering joy through trials is so much more than rudimentary “positive thinking”.
It’s an acknowledgment of the difficulties without allowing the “what ifs” to steal the provision of the moment.
It’s an acceptance–a childlike trust–that no, we don’t understand the reasons behind it yet but we’re still going to believe in God’s goodness.
It’s a delicate dance between actively pursuing every option and choosing to trust God that He’ll provide an absolute miracle.
That ability to thrive (and not just survive) a trial with joy is founded on three principles that I want to teach you right now.
Principle #1: We must take responsibility for what we choose to savor.
Tonight I watched the sunset. I watched the sun dip lower and lower behind a silhouetted mountain crest and then—just like that!—it disappeared.
I can’t remember the last time I did that. And yet, the sun does it every day.
As I sat there savoring the last glimmers of sunlight, I asked myself:
What have I been stopping to savor in place of moments like these?
And the answer was clear: I’ve stopped too many times to savor the wrong things.
Like the fears of the future. Like the utter agony of being broken–again and again–by this trial.
Friends, we get lost in the sorrow. We wander in the future without God (a place we were never intended to go).
We play those thoughts over and over. Not because they are good, but, honestly, because sometimes it feels good to feel sorry for ourselves.
And the longer we hang out here the more familiar the thoughts become.
When we allow these thoughts to dominate we create a stagnant, spiritual “soil” in our minds that make it difficult to discover the joy during the trial.
What are you choosing to savor today, and how is that affecting your joy?
Principle #2: We must quiet our lives so that we can discover (and savor) the quiet undercurrents of joy.
Why don’t we spend more time savoring the good? Well, the pain is easier to discover, especially when we overcrowd our hectic lives with activity.
These tiny treasures aren’t loud and obnoxious, and maybe that’s why we so easily miss them. They speak softly—so softly that its easy to wonder if they’re even there.
They get crowded out in the mad jumble of a hurried life.
That’s why it is in the quiet and stillness that we can see them appear—like rabbits that suddenly materialize on a grassy field at twilight. We see them when we slow down enough to notice their presence.
When I’m enduring a trial I have to regularly quiet my heart: to let out the surge of emotion that’s building; and to allow God to replenish my soul with reminders of the beauty that is happening in my little world.
I write them down and savor the lovely little treasures of goodness that are present:
- The way my husband and I always hold hands in bed before going to sleep;
- How my nine-year-old lights up when I ask if she’d like a cup of tea;
- My five-year-old’s adorable furrowed brow when he’s confused about something;
- The way all six of us snuggle in bed as we read a bedtime story;
- The always-happy-to-see-me greeting from my two faithful Labradors;
- My twelve-year-old’s dedicated work ethic (which reminds me of his father);
- The “mystery” card left on my pillow that said, “I love you mom. Thank you for giving up your life to teach me.”
- That moment in the car last weekend when I got to remind my son (who had tears of repentance on his cheeks while we looked up Bible verses together) that yes, he was absolutely forgiven.
I choose to savor these moments, like I’d savor a fine piece of cheese or an exquisitely-flavored chocolate truffle.
These are priceless gifts from God—rich and decadent treasures that are not meant to be gobbled up but to be remembered over and over. These are nourishment and hope during the most difficult times.
What would your list look like? What good things can you savor instead of the bad?
Principle #3: Release the fears to God and choose to savor His replenishing promises.
There’s a well-known Bible verse that many Christians quote during a trial:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6-7
This is a beautiful verse, but I believe many miss the true power of this verse because they stop at verse 7. They pray to God, telling him about their needs and releasing their fears (verses 6-7).
But then they forget to replace the fear. They forget to habitually replenish themselves with God’s promises.
Check out the admonition in the following verses, Philippians 4:8-9:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
I’ve bolded those sections because I believe they are the final missing piece to how we discover joy in trials.
First, we must acknowledge and release our fears. Then, once we have this clean slate, we must regularly “fix our thoughts” (which sounds a whole lot like “savoring,” don’t you think?) on those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise.
I’ve found that when I take this seriously–meaning, when I really do regularly choose to savor these gifts and promises from God–it is so much easier for me to discover joy in a trial.
Our family is enduring a huge trial right now and honestly, I have my list of these things in Evernote so that I can access them regularly from my phone and tablet. Whenever I’m tempted to let my thoughts wander into the dark places, I confess my fears again to God and meditate on the truths on that list.
Because it’s true that God is working out all these difficulties into a beautiful future for me.
Because He’s given me an honorable husband who cherishes me and longs to provide for our family.
Because it’s right that we have so many friends and family who are praying for us daily.
Because I get to spend my days around little children with pure hearts who see the world innocent and full of promise.
And the list goes on.
What can you choose to “fix your thoughts” on during a trial so that you can maintain a spirit of joy?
Yes, Joy Is Possible During a Trial
I hope these three principles give you the practical steps to take to discover joy during a trial!
Although they are not easy to implement, they are highly valuable mindsets that not only sustain us but allow us to be triumphant during times of trial.
We must lean on Jesus during the trial so that He can show us how to make these mindsets a reality in our lives. He wants to use these trials to transform our weaknesses into great dependence and strength in Him.
Friend, I’m praying for you to discover joy as you endure this trial!
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