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.

Keeping the (Inner) Peace

Me and Pete, January, 2015
Me and my big brother, Pete, January, 2015

 

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

The phone rang Sunday morning as I was putting the finishing touches on my sermon.

The caller was my brother, Pete, who was experiencing serious health issues and requested prayer.

“Get yourself to an emergency room as soon as possible,” I told him. Then I prayed with him over the phone.

“What’s going on?” my husband asked as I hung up.

I related Pete’s symptoms. “From the sound of it, he needs immediate surgery. And he can’t have surgery until he’s been off his blood thinning medication for several days. He’s between a rock and a hard place.”

Then I remembered. I nodded to my open laptop on the dining room table. “And my sermon’s on peace as the fruit of the Spirit. How can I have peace, let alone preach on it, when my only brother is experiencing a life-threatening situation?”

I stepped into Dean’s arms for a hug.

“And guess what verse I was working on when the phone rang? Philippians 4:6 and 7—Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

God sure has an uncanny sense of timing. Talk about having to practice what I preached!

But that’s what I had to do—pray about it, put it in God’s hands (where it was anyway), and not allow myself to worry about it.

Worry and anxiety are part of the human condition. But they do not have to be in me—worry and anxiety can exist outside of my mind and heart and spirit. They come knocking at the door when we least expect it, but we choose whether or not to let them in.

Not that I have no concerns. I do. I love; therefore, I have concerns. But notice I use the word “concern,” not “worry” or “anxiety.”

But it’s a war to fight them—those worries and anxieties.

We have two effective weapons against them—prayer and the Word of God—what Paul calls the “Sword of the Spirit” in his famous “Armor of God” letter to the church in Ephesus: “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (Ephesians 6:17, 18).

But sometimes we pray and don’t let go. We hang onto the worry and anxiety. Why? Either we don’t trust God or we feel at least we’re doing something in a situation in which we feel helpless.

So I have to pray not only about the situation but also for the grace to let go of that which robs me of the peace God wants for me.

One way I can do that is to fix my mind on God. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV).

Notice the word “stayed.” Don’t let your mind wander from the One who gives help, hope, grace, and strength. Go to Philippians 4:8–9 for those things on which to focus your thoughts.

“Because he trusts in You”—the Amplified version adds to the meaning of “trusts”: “because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”

After six hours in the emergency room and several tests, my brother was released. Surgery is scheduled for this coming Thursday.

I will not worry. My mind is stayed on God. It is to Him that I commit myself, on Him I lean, and in Him I hope.

My brother is in good hands.

Thank you, Lord, for the Word that gives us peace we could never find elsewhere but in You. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Philippians 4:4–9

FYI: If you’re wondering why I was preparing a sermon, wonder no more. I’m the lay speaker/pastor for St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Punxsutawney. (I call them “my little flock.”)