Bummed Out

When my anxieties multiply, your comforting calms me down. – Psalm 94:19 CEB

Last Sunday we lit the pink candle on the Advent wreath at church – the Candle of Joy. I was feeling anything but joy.

It’s been a trying year, and the previous week brought even more challenges. A dear cousin passed away from lung cancer. I hadn’t even known she was sick. After thorough exams by two eye doctors, we still don’t know why the vision in my left eye is cloudy. My children are scattered, all three living in different states: Michigan, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Three of our grandchildren who used to live next door now live over 30 miles away.

DH and I are staying home this Christmas instead of traveling.

And Christmas Eve . . . Ah, that’s going to be hard. We’ll come home after the candlelight service at church to an empty, quiet house. After a lifetime of noise, food, fellowship, fun, and family. No sitting in the rocking chair in the corner of the dining room, watching all the chaos.

So, yeah, I’m bummed out.

When folks ask how I am, I say “good.” What a lie! But if I told them the truth, what good would it do? Chances are I’ll get the following words of advice:

“Look on the bright side.”

“Count your blessings.”

“Put on a happy face.”

Well, I don’t wanna.

People mean well, but sometimes I just get tired of those adages, those clichés, those trite statements that seem to overlook my pain. I don’t want to look on the bright side, count my blessings, put on a happy face. Not when I feel my best days are behind me. Not when I feel alone and so very far away from those closest to my heart.

It got me thinking about the stuff of life that steals our joy. So I posted a question on Facebook: “What steals your joy?”

Here are the top three:

  1. Worry and anxiety. One person wrote, “Worrying and stressing over things I have no control over.”
  2. Other people and the way they treat us, with negative people taking the top spot in that category for siphoning the joy out of others. Following close behind were people who are mean, pushy, whiny, and selfish. One lady wrote, “My son being a jerk to me now.”
  3. Being compared and criticized. One woman wrote, “Being yelled at.” How sad.

Completing the Top Ten were finances (“being poor” one person wrote), illness, conflict/arguments/strife, pain, overthinking, and stress.

Looking over the list, I asked myself two questions: Which of the joy stealers come from outside forces and which from within myself? Which of them are ones I can control?

I came up with three things I can do when it seems I’m losing my joy.

First, know where true joy comes from – God. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, who abides in me. That being said, it’s OK to be sad. You can still have abiding joy when you’re grieving.

And it’s OK to struggle to navigate the times of transition. Life changes. It is not static, and we must change with it, whether we like it or not.

When you need to shift gears and adjust, know God is right there with you: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you,” He tells us in Isaiah 43:2. “When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Notice He says “when” – not “if.”

Second, control the joy stealers that you can. Avoid toxic, negative people. Rein in your finances by setting and adhering to a reasonable budget, paying down debt, and making wise purchases. Refuse to worry. Conquer it with prayer and Scripture.

And finally, when you’ve done all you can, give the rest to God.

What is stealing your joy? What are you going to do about it?

When I’m feeling bummed out, Lord, help me as I mourn my losses, adjust to change, and trust You to guide me on my life’s journey. And remind me that weeping may endure for a night, no matter how long that night is, but joy WILL come in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Read and meditate on Psalm 30

 © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Joy Stealers

What has happened to all your joy? – Galatians 4:15 (NIV)

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy . . . – Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV)

“What has happened to all your joy?” the apostle Paul asked the first century church in Galatia.

You could ask me the same thing.

A few months ago my joy was overflowing. Then a string of unexpected expenses, disappointments, dashed hopes—you know, the stuff of life—siphoned it out.

Image courtesy of Toa55 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Toa55 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was like a tire losing air. But it wasn’t the events themselves that drained my joy, but my response to them. I worried. I fretted. I wallowed in disappointment. I danced with impatience. I denied my simmering anger because I didn’t know where to direct my ire. I mean, I wasn’t mad at God, was I?

Joy stealers. That’s what worry, disappointment, impatience, and anger are. We lose joy when we run ahead of God, taking things in our own hands rather than wait for Him to work things out in His way and in His time. We lose joy when we pray and then don’t wait for the guidance, wisdom, and discernment we asked for. We lose joy when we don’t trust our heavenly Father and His promises to us in His Word.

In some cases, it’s not a slow leak that causes us to lose our joy but hitting a nasty pothole or something sharp on the road—something you didn’t see coming and couldn’t avoid. Then your tire of joy blows out and you’re stuck alongside of the road of life, a joyless Christian.

But the stuff of life happens. Potholes open up where we least expect them.

So how do we keep the tire of joy inflated?

First, know that trial and tribulation are part of this world and, in the hands of God, work for our good, developing us, transforming us like nothing else can (James 1:2–5; 1 Thessalonians 5:16–19; 1 Peter 1:3–9; Romans 5:1–5; John 16:33).

Know that God is in control, no matter what the circumstances. Remember there’s more going on than you can see. Trust God and continue to obey Him.

Stay in close communication with your heavenly Father through prayer, whether or not you feel like your prayers are reaching heaven, and Scripture, even when the words are bouncing off your brain.

Know that joy and happiness are not the same. Happiness is fleeting, superficial. It waxes and wanes, depending on the circumstances of life. Joy, on the other hand, sinks its roots deep into our spirits, and is nourished by a growing faith and a working relationship with the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t depend on circumstances.

The stuff of life is going to happen to all of us. We choose whether to allow it to suck the joy out of us or let God use it to develop His joy, a fruit of His Spirit, in us.

Help me to thwart the thieves that would rob me of the joy—the fullness of joy—that You have for me. Remind me that the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and a fruit of the Spirit that dwells in me. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on John 15:1–17