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.

Where Choices Lead

 

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. –James 1:5 NLT

When I met my husband at the end of January in 1973, I fell in love with those twinkling blue eyes and everything about him. A week later I knew he was the one.

But in March fear set in. I was still feeling the effects of a broken engagement six months earlier. My shattered heart hadn’t had enough time to mend.

“This is happening too fast,” I told him one Friday evening after our date. Then I slipped out of his car and out of his life.

For the next two days, an emotional wrestling match waged war in my heart. What if I was passing up the love of a lifetime? Deep down I knew someone like him might never come along again. But this was my chance to play the field. I was young, free, and independent.

Saturday evening I stayed home. Alone. Miserable.

We had a signal in those days before cell phones. If the living room light was on and the window shade was up, I wasn’t home. If the light was on and the shade down, I was.

I kept peeking through the drawn shade, hoping he’d stop by. I kept that light on and the shade down all night long. By Sunday evening, I made a choice. I grabbed my car keys and went looking for him.

Here we are, about to celebrate our forty-fifth anniversary. I shudder when I think of how close I came to losing him and missing out on the life we’ve had together.

Every choice we make carries with it consequences, some good and some not so good.

When I read the book of Ruth a few weeks ago, it struck me that this story that so beautifully shows the sovereignty and faithfulness of God, is a story of choices. Each of the four main characters had a choice to make. What they chose determined future joy or sorrow, rejoicing or regret.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, chose to step out of God’s will and not trust God to provide for him and his family’s needs. He moved his family to Moab, only 55 miles from his hometown of Bethlehem.

The result was disaster. He died in a foreign land, his sons married Moabite women, not women of the Hebrew faith. Then the sons died, leaving Naomi and her two pagan daughters-in-law without provision and protection.

Naomi chose to return to Bethlehem. Stepping back into God’s will led to more blessings than she could ever have dreamed of.

Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, chose to remain with Naomi rather than return home to “her people and her gods.”

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay,” Ruth told her. “Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16–18).

Ruth’s choice of loyalty led to the love of a lifetime.

Boaz, Elimelech’s relative, chose to honor the law of levirate marriage and take Ruth as his wife. The result was hope for all mankind. The child they had, Obed, became the grandfather of David, whose line produced the Messiah.

The end result for all but Elimelech was joy.

Every choice we make has consequences. Asking God for helpfor wisdom, guidance, and directionwill lead to the right choice, if we choose to listen to Him.

What choices are you facing today?

 Help me, Lord, to choose the right priorities, the right people, the right places, and the right Provider—You. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ruth 1–4.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.