This weeek on advent focuses on JOY (the pink candle) which I know can be a hard thing for a lot of people this time of year. Although my Christmas season is mostly full of blessings, I have even had a a few down moments....
So, how do we hold on to Joy - when the world seems to be falling apart? (I feel totally unqualified to answer this question since I know my dissapointments, my bad days deal with work and relationships and family -- not death or sickness or divorce. In no way do I want to sound condescending.."Just have Joy."..but I do know that there are some things we can do to have Joy....at Christmas and other times of the year.
1. Count your blessings
I try to remind myself daily of my blessings. (Today my blessing is that my Jack Attack is coming to MS today for the holidays, love that baby boy!) The truth is as we count our blessings, we can see that our lives - though painful they may be - aren't empty of all goodness. I've come to find that some of my toughest years are sprinkled with some of my favorite moments, memories, blessings. Rarely is life all good or all bad.
2. Remember God's past faithfulness.
The Lord has been faithful and He will be again. How quickly we forget His provision. Focusing on what He has done reminds us that He can and will do good things in our lives, in our circumstances.
3. Rely on His timing.
Psalm 30 tells us that weeping may last for a night, but Joy comes in the morning. We fight for joy during hard times, but at a certain point in time, we see His faithfulness and provision and Joy comes. Don't give up too quickly. He makes all things beautiful in His time.
4. Take a time out.
Especially in the holidays, take a moment away if you need to. Skip a party and take time to pray, read scripture, sleep, cry, etc. I think we get so busy trying to be happy or trying to survive, that we forget to take a moment and grieve what we need to grieve and run to the arms of our Savior. Joy doesn't require happiness at every moment and Joy certainly isn't something you achieve on your own, so run to Christ, tell him your hurts, admit your struggle for Joy. There is no better person to be honest with about your heartache. There is no better person to seek Joy from. When I lack Joy the most is when I feel I have to try to appear happy the most. Instead, be honest that life hurts and ask for Joy DESPITE those circumstances (rather than Joy pretending those circumstances don't exist)
5. Praise and Worship
Count your blessings, remember Christ's faithfulness - and praise Him. Worship quickly reminds us the Lord is in charge, He has done good things for us, and He is worthy to be praised.
6. Focus on others.
Concern for others helps take our focus off ourselves.
7. Ask. and ask some more.
The Bible verse famously says we should ask and it will be given to us, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be opened...notice how after asking, the person didn't give up? He increased his requests with more intensity -- he asked, then he sought, then he knocked. Struggling with Joy? ask the Lord and don't quit asking.
8. Think on what is lovely.
I already mentioned counting blessings and remembering God's provision, but thinking on what's lovely includes a happy Christmas movie or song, remembering a funny joke from lunch, an inspirational quote, and encouraging word. Think on things that make you happy -- happiness may not equal Joy, but remembering good things in your live helps cultivate a Joyful spirit.
9. Remember, its just one holiday & 10. The gospel remains true despite our circumstances.
It may not be the best holiday season or the best year. Your life story may not be a hallmark movie this year....but not every year will be this hard, not every holiday will be this hard. Also, praise God that the gospel remains true whether we feel Joy or not. You may struggle to praise and worship Him for His birth this season, but it makes His birth, life, death and resurrection no less significant. In fact, when we struggle the most to appreciate the significance of Christmas is when we need it the most.
My heart breaks for those suffering this holiday season. I remember my first Christmas after my wedding was called off. I remember my sweet family trying to make it a huge ordeal and being incredibly cheerful and having champagne and bending over backwards...and you know what? it still sucked..nothing was going to make it great (although there were good moments) No doubt about it, the worst Christmas of my life (thus far). At some moments that holiday season, I fought for Joy -- tried to enjoy the holidays despite my circumstances, tried to laugh and do the "things" I had always done. (first round of law school finals didn't help me fight for Joy though haha) and sometimes I just gave in and was grumpy and ungrateful. But, I know this to be true: Christmas meant something different to me than ever before. I had never felt alone on the holidays (although I truthfully wasn't alone), I had never felt so hurt and I had never before struggled to celebrate Christ's birth ...YET that was the year that his birth meant the most to me. I didn't quit hurting, but I was aware that I had a Savior who gave up a throne to come to a sinful hurtful world and die so that I did not have to hurt for eternity. If nothing else gives you Joy this holiday season, let that give you Joy, let that reality hit home....this pain is not forever...because there was a first Christmas, this lonely or hard Christmas is not forever...weeping may last for the night, but Joy really will come in the morning.