Finding Joy In Troubled Times


     These are stressful, challenging times.  Our culture seems to be marinating in anxiety and fear.  We stress about COVID; we are afraid of whatever the “other political party” is up to.   Many people are sad, and their joy in life seems to be missing.  How do we find delight in our everyday lives? How can we find joy?
     First, accept God’s sovereignty.  God is in charge.  God is in control.  At times this seems hard to believe, but it is a clear teaching of the Bible.  Personally, I find this doctrine a key to my joy.  I can unfurrow my brow, relax and just live.
     Second, practice gratitude.  We are a forgetful people.  The Bible teaches us that every good gift comes from God (James 1:17).  Each of us has a different list.  My list includes a remarkable family, good friends, and a job I love, just to get started.  Americans should stop and be grateful for the impressive prosperity most of us enjoy.  For example, the average world yearly income is $5,000 (The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha, 90).  Feeling more grateful for your salary?  Sometimes I go through the alphabet and try to come up with something I am grateful for with each letter.  Some letters are tougher than others; for instance apparently I am more thankful for x-rays and zoos than the average person, but it is a great exercise.  You might even go old school and write thank you notes to a few key people in your life.  They will enjoy it and you will be smiling by the time you are done.  Another practical suggestion is to keep a gratitude journal for a period of time.  Studies have shown that just daily listing what we are grateful for lifts our spirits.  I think practicing gratitude is a real key to a right now joy as opposed to a someday joy.            Third, focus your mind on the promises of God.  One of my favorites is heaven, God’s prepared home for his people.   I enjoy thinking about the new heavens and the new earth.  What will it be like?  The Scripture says it is beyond my imagination, and I have an active imagination!  A place with no death, sorrow or tears is something I long for.  A place filled with the Christians who have died before me.  I look forward to seeing my grandparents.  Or what about the engaging conversations we’ll have with those we’ve only read about—Moses, David, Peter and Paul?  When I look at my own life, I long to see a life without any sin, where I am truly me with all the rough edges sanded off.  Or what about every relationship upgraded to sinless status?  No selfishness, no hidden agendas, total honesty and lots of laughter.  For the Christian, truly the best is yet to come!
     Fourth, prioritize relationships.  Author Ian K. Smith once said, “Happiness is a crowded dinner table” (Happy, 21)  Three of our five children have moved out but two of those are still local and join us at dinner time fairly often.  Family dinner is such a great time of food, stories and laughter.   Author Neil Pasricha says, “study after study shows that it is our social connections that are the single biggest driver of our happiness.” (The Happiness Equation, 114).   As a Christian I would add that our most fundamental social connection is not horizontal but vertical, a deep relationship with the smiling God of the Bible.  God is a God of joy.  This is not his only characteristic, but it is an important one.  Even God exhibits relationship.  While Christians believe in one God, more specifically, we believe in One God, three persons—The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Out of relationship with the joy filled Trinity we can find true happiness.   Charles Spurgeon once said, “Man was not originally made to mourn; he was made to rejoice”(The Myth Of Happiness, Rich Wanger, 49).  Joy is even listed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).      I hope that these suggestions are a nudge to help you begin your journey of joy.

Pastor Derek Dickinson