Updated: Oct 7, 2019
As we navigate this journey called life, there will be mountains & there will be valleys. Seasons of abundance & seasons of drought. I am learning to count it ALL joy. Here are 3 ways to find JOY in the middle of your battle.
Life is full of twists & turns, isn't it? One minute you think you've got it all figured out...You have a 5 year plan...You've written the vision and made it plain... You are ready to run your race. Your goals are clearly identified and broken down into objectives. You begin to practice those "daily habits" that will set you up for success. You dream of the day you can #liveyourbestlife. You embrace the grind, lock in your focus and go! You are well on your way to achieving everything your heart desires... BUT THEN... life happens.
You lose your job and can't find another that will pay the bills. You end up being unemployed for a year (despite your best efforts to apply at every single place that's hiring), depleting your savings and living off of credit cards. You are forced to cut back your spending & maybe even downsize your home. Your spouse and kids are devastated because they now have to move away from family and friends. Everything they know and love is about to change...their house, school, church, extra curricular activities, friends....everything.
Or maybe it's not your job... maybe someone you love is diagnosed with a terminal disease & it completely blindsides you. You want so badly for them to be healed that it's all you can think about. You know you are not suppose to worry, but you do & and you loose sleep over it. You just want to drop everything and go be with that person, but you can't because of your job.
These are just a couple situations that sadly many people, including our family, have had to walk through on their journey. These are what we refer to as the "valley seasons" of life that none of us, no matter how great our faith, are exempt from. In John 16:33 Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." He tells us this because he wants us to prepare us and assure us that even as we walk through the darkness, He is there with us and He has already won!
The first part of that verse is, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace." When everything around us seems to be falling apart, when WE seem to be falling apart, He says we can still find peace in Him. The JOY of the LORD is my strength! When I am weak, He is strong! When Paul was being tormented by the enemy with a "thorn in his flesh," he pleaded with God to take it away but God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore [Paul said], I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
There are so so many Bible stories on this topic that come to mind...it's hard to narrow it down for this post. So let's just stick with Paul, since we were already talking about him.
In Acts, Paul and Silas were chained to the floor of a Roman prison. They had been badly beaten, so you can imagine their intense pain. I am sure they were probably hungry, exhausted, and in the worst of conditions you can probably imagine. Rats & bugs crawling everywhere...and to not be too graphic, I'll just say they did not have a bathroom to go to. But that did not stop Paul and Silas from singing praises to God. Acts 16:25-26 gives an account of what happened, "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose." God responded to their worship! He showed up and broke away their chains. God is moved when we choose to worship Him in the middle of the battle.
So the question then becomes, HOW, like Paul and Silas, can I have peace and even JOY in the middle of my battle? Here are some things that have helped me find JOY the valley seasons of my life. Along with some practical application & songs that will encourage and uplift your spirit.
1. Worship! Worship! Worship!
And this doesn't just mean sing songs of worship, although I do a lot of that (especially when I am in the middle of a battle). Worship is a posture of the heart. It is putting God above everything else in our lives. It's humbling ourselves and meditating on His greatness. Realizing that we are nothing without Him and that every breath in our lungs is a gift from Him. It's spending time in His presence and studying His word. This brings perspective and can help us find JOY in His amazing grace and unconditional love for us.
• Do a Bible study on your own or with friends (YouVersion Bible App is my favorite for morning devotionals. When I spend time with Him first, the rest of my day always seems to go better.
• Schedule some quiet time where you can be alone with God. Reflect on His goodness, how big and powerful He is...how amazing His love is. Pray. Listen. Be still.
• Throw a Praise Party with your littles or just by yourself. Dance around and have fun!
• Sing to Him. Here are some of my recent favorites specifically for when you find yourself in a battle.
• Surrounded (This is How I Fight My Battles) - UPPERROOM & Michael W. Smith
• Never Walk Away - Elevation Rhythm
• Joy - For King and Country (this one is especially good for those Praise Parties!) :)
• Power - Elevation Worship
• See a Victory - Elevation Worship
This leads me to the second way we can have JOY, even in the midst of painful trials.
2. Practice Gratitude.
There are only 2 things we have complete control over in life - our Actions and our Attitude. There is always something to be grateful for & it's up to us develop an "Attitude of Gratitude." (This is actually the title of a poem I wrote in my new Children's book "Enjoy the Journey" check it out here). We have to practice and develop this because most people's natural inclination is to look at what's wrong, instead of what is right.
But when we choose to be "good finders" and focus on all the blessings, we become more grateful... and a grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.
What we think about we bring about. When we focus on the bad, we attract more bad. When we focus on the good, we attract more good into our lives (that is the law of attraction - a totally different topic that I may write a post about later). But the reason I bring it up is because if we think depressing, negative thoughts more than likely we will find ourselves depressed, but on the flip side, if we can learn to take those destructive thoughts captive and think happy thoughts we will find ourselves more joyful. (2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 4:8).
• Start a Gratitude Journal - write down 3 new things every day that you are thankful for.
• Compliment someone - if you think something nice about someone, say it. Don't just keep it to yourself, it may completely brighten their day.
• Be a "good finder." Start counting your blessings and looking for what is right in the world.
• It Is So - Elevation Worship
• A Better Word - Elevation Worship
• With You - Elevation Worship
• Hills and Valleys - Tauren Wells
• Raise a Hallelujah - Bethel Worship
We are most like Jesus when we give. Give of our time, resources, skills & love.
"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE and give himself as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28). I have found when I am most hard pressed, if I just go give myself away, it takes my focus off my own issues and puts it on someone else. Elevating others above self. It is more blessed to give than to receive. When we bless others it makes us feel good and brings JOY because we are being His hands and feet in this world.
I Give Myself Away - William McDowell
Rescue - Lauren Daigle
Known - Tauren Wells
Echo - Tauren Wells & Elevation Worship
The Break Up Song - Francesca Battistelli
You Say - Lauren Daigle
• Cook someone a meal
• Spend time with those who are lonely. Time is way more valuable than money
• Offer to mow a neighbors yard that appears to be in need
• Pay for the person's meal in front of you at the drive thru
• Give your time to help at church
• Volunteer your skills to someone in need
• Other #randomactsofkindness