The past few weeks have been a real struggle. Work is hard, relationships have been hard, church has been hard, thinking about my future has been hard. There’s just a lot going on and none of it seems straightforward.
And yet through all of this, through all of the tension and a real sense of being overwhelmed,I’ve been really challenged to keep perspective, pick my chin up, and maintain my joy. But how on earth do I do that when life just seems too much?
A supernatural joy
I think that firstly we need to remember that joy comes from the Holy Spirit, that it is a supernatural fruit that we receive only by having the Spirit within us and being close to him.
Without a doubt, joy in the midst of difficult circumstances is never going to come naturally when we’re relying on our own strength and focussing on our earthly perspective, but it is possible through God.
Being joyful when your world is crashing down around you may feel impossible, but God calls his followers to a higher standard. When we accept Jesus and choose to follow him, God doesn’t want us to be like the rest of the world anymore – he calls us to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus, living counter-cultural lives and becoming more and more holy as we live like him.
People should question how we can continue to be so loving, joyful, and peaceful when our circumstances are not! And the simple answer is that it is only through the Holy Spirit, changing us from the inside out, that we can experience this supernatural joy in the midst of chaos and heartache.
1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 16 to 18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
No matter what your circumstances are, God commands us in every situation to be joyful, and what God commands, God enables because it can be done through his Spirit.We can take great comfort from this – it’s possible.
Called to bring joy
Not only does God call us to a higher standard for ourselves though, commanding us to be joyful, but God calls us to bring joy to others as well. We don’t live in a vacuum, but in the world with other people in our families and communities who are also hurting.
We’re called to be salt and light to them, influencing and impacting them for the better. What a privilege!
So if the people around you are stuck in a rut of negative words, edge the conversation back with positive words that bring life. If people around you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, bring back a sense of joy through laughter or a simple act of kindness. If people are struggling with grief, sit with them in that, ready with a comforting smile and a good story when the time is right.
It only takes small acts, but each small act can slowly steer and influence others back towards joy.
Truthfully though, I know thatthis reads lovely on paper, but in reality, it is hard. How do we actually, honestly, do this? How do we influence our environment andturn people’s conversations to joy and positivity, when people are feeling negative, cynical, anxious, or gossipy?
What about when we’re unsure ourselves, when we’re processing our own grief and confusion and stress? What if we don’t actually want to bring joy, but would rather stay angry? How do we keep joyful and keep momentum, instead of getting stuck in our circumstances?
We come back to the big picture. We come back to the vision. We look forward with expectation, and we have faith in God, trusting in Him with a heavenly perspective.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians chapter 1, verse 6) We must have faith to believe this. We must have faith to believe that God is a good God, and that when life feels like it is too much to bear, God is not finished with us yet! There is more ahead of us.
There you go – it’s no magic bullet, but it’s the simple honest truth. Each day, we realign and focus back on him. So may we experience a supernatural joy for ourselves in the midst of our battles, and may we never stop seeking to bring joy to others.
Rebecca Howan is from Wellington, New Zealand, where she works as an Executive Assistant in the humanitarian sector. She worships and serves at The Salvation Army, and is passionate about music, travelling the world and building community.
You can read Rebecca’s previous columns at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rebecca-howan.html