This past summer as I was unexpectedly broadsided by some unwelcome fears, anxiety, and depression, my first instinct was to run away from uncomfortable feelings and try to find some joy to distract me.
Well, it turns out I was looking for joy in all the wrong places. I even traveled to the other side of the world thinking I would find joy by visiting my girls and grandson only to find myself feeling worse when I was there.
I realized a few things…
- you can’t run from your problems and expect them to go away.
- you can’t depend on other people, even your loved ones to make you feel better.
- you can’t distract yourself with travel therapy or retail therapy.
- and you can’t make yourself so busy that you don’t think about what ails you.
So now I want to share with you what has helped.
When I came home from New Zealand, I was a big mess. I couldn’t even figure out what my problem was or why I was so miserable inside.
Thankfully, I have a lifelong friend who helped me unravel the mess that was in my head. She has known me through all the seasons of my life including the good, the bad and the ugly so she was able to point some things out to me that I just couldn’t see. She gave me some questions/journaling prompts to get me to explore my feelings and identify where things starting getting really hard for me. And then we set up a time to go over it.
I can’t tell you how much that helped me. It took me a few weeks to think through those questions and journal my responses but it was the beginning of helping me to sort through everything.
I share this part to help you think about who may be a good friend that can help you in this way, or maybe who do you know who is struggling that you can help like this? Sometimes we don’t even know what to do to help a friend going through a hard time. What my friend did for me was such a gift and it was the lifeline thrown in to help me out of a deep pit.
I am following up with some counseling sessions at my church to help me keep working through some of the issues that dragged me into the pit to begin with so I can be more prepared to combat these issues as I move on in life.
How I am keeping out of that pit… I am focusing on learning how to choose JOY!
- Every time I am tempted to think of negative thoughts and feelings, I pop in the earbuds and listen to uplifting music, right now my go-to is Joy by for King and Country. Actually, I start most days by listening to this song.
- I signed up for the FREE 30 day Choose Joy daily video series by Kay Warren.
- I purchased the book Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough by Kay Warren.
Note: Kay Warren is someone I respect tremendously as I have watched her from afar go through the struggles of trying to help her son survive a severe mental illness and then later losing him. Yet she has kept her faith strong, she radiates joy even though she admits it doesn’t come naturally. She also has become an advocate for change in helping individuals and families survive and thrive through mental illness. Kay wrote this book before her son died but she writes this in the preface of the book…
“The detailed circumstances of his death are private, but what I am comfortable telling you is that on the morning of April 5, 2013, I have very good reasons to believe he had taken his life, although it wouldn’t be confirmed until later that day. The night before I did not sleep, full of anxiety and grief because I was pretty sure Matthew had died. So when I got dressed that morning, I deliberately reached in my jewelry drawer and selected a necklace that said, Choose Joy. I was sick to my stomach, sharing from head to toe and terrified that what I had dreaded had actually happened. But I put it on because somewhere in the dim recesses of my frozen mind I was certain the only thing that would allow me to survive the loss of my son was what I knew and believed about God…and joy. That morning I possessed these three things: the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be okay, and the determined choice to give my praise to God – even on April 5, 2013.
These ensuing months of shattering grief and loss have severely tested those three convictions, and the opportunities to choose joy – or not – have been endless. I really believe that God allowed me to write Choose Joy before Matthew died to prepare me for what was ahead so that when he died, I had the tools I desperately needed to survive and even thrive during one of life’s most tragic losses.”
Something I did this fall to help me in my quest to “Choose Joy.”
Well, this fall just happened to be a perfect study to help with this quest to find joy in the midst of trials. We went through a book called Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard by Tracie Miles. I loved this book because it made me realize you don’t have to be on the other side of your problem to find joy. Tracie wrote this book while she was going through a terrible time in her life. She weaves her story and journey into an encouraging book offering practical ways to work through struggles and find joy again.
It may be hard to hear this message about choosing joy when you are in the midst of a difficult time in your life. I get that. I have felt that way many times before as well.
I just attended a conference with Lysa Terkuerst and she was talking about the scripture verse from James 1:2-4 that says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Lysa pointed out that it doesn’t say, “you should feel joy”…no guilt here…no, no, no. It says consider joy. That is such a great place to start. Just start with considering joy. Think about the rest of this verse, it reminds us that there is a purpose in our pain and struggles that will produce in us some great things.
So if you are struggling with something in your life right now (a health problem, stress, depression, anxiety, loss, grief or any other “real life” problem) and you are just looking for some joy, I hope these suggestions help you find it.
Wishing you Joy in your journey,
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