Where Joy Flows From

For me, the trickiest part of kayaking is just getting in the boat. Stepping off the dock one foot at a time into a rocking, unsteady object is a bit unnerving. Will it lurch suddenly in the wrong direction when my unbalanced weight makes contact? Can my other leg join the effort quickly and precisely enough to thwart disaster? Or, will my typically clumsy nature land me in the lake?

Fortunately, I am blessed with a husband who understands my worries and is familiar with my lack of grace. As I step from the dock to the kayak, he steadies me with his hand and offers lighthearted reassurances that I will not get wet.

Once I am in the boat, my anxious perspective makes a dramatic shift. As I push out from the dock’s wooden planks, I find myself immersed in blue. Blue skies and blue water for as far as my eyes can see. I breathe it in. My body relaxes and my mind becomes calm. Troubles seem removed…distant. I feel like nothing can disturb my peace. I think this must be what joy feels like.

If you’ve been in a kayak, you know balanced paddle strokes keep you moving ahead. Strokes pull through the water front-to-back on one side and then the other in rotation. Staying on course amidst waves requires holding the paddle straight, strong, and steady on the side you want to turn towards.

Much like waves hitting a kayak, we meet challenges in life which rock and impede the course we travel. Often, a mindset of joy is difficult to maintain. Where does joy flow from in the Christian faith? What actions support keeping it?

Seven Steps to Joyful…

1. Mindful 

Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

The word mindful means to be attentive and insightful. From a Biblical perspective, being mindful is devoting our attention to God through prayer, Bible study, or reflection. This invites the Holy Spirit to help us let go of trouble and set our minds on peace.

Taking time to avoid distractions wakes us up to the various ways God speaks to us. Our issues become more apparent and decisions get confirmed. We may notice the same message coming at us in different ways and from different sources. Being mindful tunes us into the many ways God works to reach us, reassure us, and help us.

2. Thankful 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1 New International Version (NIV)

Becoming mindful naturally leads us to become more thankful. When we take note of God’s messages of love and guidance around us, we recognize how blessed we are. Soon our habit of thankfulness begins to outweigh our desire to worry and complain. As we appreciate more of what God does for us, our relationship with him becomes closer. We feel encouraged in both trouble and opportunity. Thankfulness leads us to appreciate what we have, teaches us to learn from problems, and helps us discover the ways God is working for our good. 

3. Prayerful

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:2 (NLT)

Powerful prayers begin by relying on our thankful habits. Praising God for his love and forgiveness helps us frame our requests to him.

God is not picky about where or how we pray. He simply wants to hear about our challenges and the requests we have for ourselves and others. The load we carry becomes lighter when we tell him our fears, confess our sins, and ask for his help. Spending time in prayer eases our burdens and brings clarity to the dreams God has placed in our hearts.  

4. Truth Full

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

Along with prayer, a knowledge of God’s promises or truths found in the Bible brings us closer to him. Seeking him means discovering who he is and what he wants for us. Spending time learning about God’s love and wisdom fills us with his truth. It makes us truth full. Scripture teaches us about hope, strength, and how to live our lives. When we feel lost, the Bible provides a place to go for help and direction. Becoming full of God’s truth builds confidence in faith and leads us to carry out his plans.

5. Dutiful

 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NLT)

Dutiful means conscientiously or obediently fulfilling one’s duty. Becoming mindful, thankful, prayerful, and truth full helps us work on understanding the actions God wants us to take to live joyfully. Sometimes obedience to God feels uncomfortable and goes against the ways of this world. Being a disciple often requires denial of self-centered desires in order to serve God’s purposes. Dutiful followers willingly make sacrifices and take action to bring glory to God’s name instead of their own. 

6. Peaceful 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

Peace comes from a deep knowing that we have done all we can to follow God’s instructions. Continually looping back to being mindful, thankful, prayerful, truth full, and dutiful helps us reach the point of peace. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the calm stability of peace can be delivered even in times of chaos. Although life will not always go the way we would like, our work through these steps teaches us to rely on God’s help. Peace requires letting go of control and trusting God’s love to work for our good.

7. Joyful

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 1 Peter 1:8

Biblically speaking, our joy does not depend on whether things are going well or not. Many consider happiness and joy to mean the same thing. Biblical scholars, however, distinguish between the two in relation to Christian life. Happiness is defined as a feeling that is dependent on circumstances, and it is fleeting in nature. Joy, however, like peace, is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It can remain regardless of trouble, and it may even increase.

Once we find peace within ourselves, it becomes easier to observe and not get immersed in the swells of emotion that enter our lives. We still feel sadness, fear and other difficult emotions, but they don’t overtake us. With practice, our focus on God heightens our sense of well-being. We feel more even keel in the midst of trials. A calm satisfaction flows from the peace of trusting God with our circumstances – this is joy.

Experiencing joy through faith is a process. One that takes consistent time, preparation, and courage. Taking steps to become mindful, thankful, prayerful, truth full, dutiful, and peaceful teaches us about our God who loves us and is always with us. When waves come and rock our boat, we practice using these steps to get better at keeping our peace – maintaining a straight, strong, and steady course. We discover joy in the midst of it all.

Ready to do some work for joy? Step off the dock into the boat. Push off strong. Paddle left, paddle right. Keep paddling. Look ahead. I see blue. Do you?

Prayer for the Week:

Dear God,

Thank you for giving me the tools I need to steady myself in this world and discover your joy. Help me grow more mindful of your presence and blessings that fill my life each day. Draw closer to me as I develop an attitude of thankfulness for those blessings, and as I look for your good in anything that comes my way. Guide me as I work on taking my life to you in prayer. Fill me with your truths and teach me how to dutifully apply them. Bring peace to my heart as I surrender control and trust in your care. May the joy from your Holy Spirit flow through me always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Other Resources:

For more on peace, read Seeking 3 Kinds of Peace

For more on other gifts from the Holy Spirit, read Making Pie with the Holy Spirit

For more on thankfulness, read Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

Note Photo Credit: Photos 1, 2, and 5 in this blog are from Pixabay.com. The rest are my own.

Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

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Yesterday, I caught myself smiling because I felt grateful for grasshoppers. Yes, strangely enough, grasshoppers. These hopping creatures have taken over my walking trail recently. Randomly popping up out of the long grasses, they bounce high across the sidewalk – in front of me, beside me, behind me, and sometimes even ON me!

Not long ago, I would have merely found them an annoyance and kind of creepy looking. But, as I walked with them yesterday, I saw them differently. Studying one that sat still, I photographed it and admired its construction. Remembering that I saw them last year, I wondered if they are a sign of the seasons changing. I considered how happy and free they seem, in spite of their relatively short life span.  In my mind, I compared them to guests at a surprise party, eagerly waiting to jump up and yell, “Surprise!” As I was thinking these things, I did not think about anything else. The grasshoppers held me captive in the present moment – no worries, no hurries, no deadlines, no cares. So, yes I am quite grateful for grasshoppers.

Upon returning home, I scribbled down one simple word in my gratitude journal – grasshoppers. In October 2012, almost four years ago, I started a numbered list of things I am thankful for in a gratitude journal. It began as an experiment after I read a book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts. In her poetically written book, Ann describes how jotting down simple blessings or gifts noticed throughout her day (like grasshoppers) enhances her faith. She challenges herself to reach one thousand gifts, thus her aptly named book.

After reading Ann’s book in 2012, I aimed to record my own one thousand gifts. I bought a journal and started recording: 1. Bright fall colors, 2. Leaves falling down, and 3. Dinner together. Each day, my goal was to record at least three to five gifts in my journal. I missed some days. And, sometimes I found it hard to come up with three things. Other days, a tidal wave of gifts would sweep over me. Each day I tried to think of brand new gifts, but I did not make it a requirement. There were many days I repeated writing the same gift such as gratefulness for my family. I decided there was nothing wrong with that. As far as I know, there are no rules or boundaries with gratitude.

When I began this practice, I didn’t know if I would stick with it. I tried an online thankfulness journal in the past and stopped. I tried naming blessings before getting out of bed in the morning, but too often my to-do list would take over my thoughts. I liked how I could easily open this journal and focus on quickly writing something down. Later, paging back over my gifts reminded me of prayers I had at that time as well. Slowly, over the next four years, I noticed a boost in my faith.

Here are three ways gratitude boosts faith:

1. Gratitude teaches us to enjoy “present” moments

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 New Living Translation (NLT)

The word “present” means a few things when discussing gratitude. First, living in the present refers to enjoying the period of time occurring right now. Second, being present is an attitude, meaning we pay attention to our life; we are aware of our surroundings. And third, a present is a gift or something given to someone free of charge. All of these meanings come into play as we relate gratitude to faith through the Scripture above.

Practicing gratitude boosts faith by reminding us God gave us life for today – in this moment (period of time). Making gratitude a habit teaches us to intentionally look for and be aware of reasons to rejoice, even on days when we don’t feel like it (attitude). Faith grows as we see and appreciate all the loving offerings our God provides (gifts). Because of gratitude, I was present enough to notice the grasshoppers, look for reasons to appreciate them, and consider them as a gift for my day.

2. Gratitude delivers peace when combined with prayer

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)

A daily practice combining gratitude and prayer helps us gradually experience God’s peace. We start by turning our worries into prayers. And, we work on accepting that we cannot control or fix some of the problems in our lives. Instead of letting issues rule our emotions, we tell God about them and keep gathering strength to move ahead through gratitude.

Practicing gratitude brings gifts or blessings to our attention which encourages us. Thanking God for these gifts we see, in spite of our trouble, fills us with hope. Peace or faith in God’s care increases as we become more aware of all he does for us each day.

3. Gratitude brings enough.  

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

It is hard to feel grateful and lacking at the same time.

As we get better at noticing God’s blessings in our lives, desires for more material possessions wane. We learn that having the latest and greatest stuff does not keep us satisfied for very long. We evaluate wants versus needs more than before. Often after consideration, gratitude brings us to the conclusion that we are content; we have enough.

In a similar way, gratitude also teaches us that we are enough. The world constantly messages us that we should be better looking, more successful, and always upbeat. But, gratitude says, “Hey, we are doing okay.” Becoming more thankful for how God made us unique teaches us to care less about being judged by the world. Our motivation changes. We stop living to please others, and we start living to please God. Filling up our hearts with gratitude inspires good and healthy action.

Boosting faith through gratitude takes time. The three boosts to faith of living in the present moment, finding God’s peace, and having/being enough certainly do not show up the first day we practice gratitude. Like any good habit, gratitude requires routine commitment. If writing in a journal each day doesn’t work, brainstorm for something that might. Everyone can practice gratitude each day in some way. For example, gifts from the day can be shared over a meal with family or friends, photographed during a walk, thought about at soccer practice, or whispered before sleep at night.

This week, as I wrote grasshoppers down in my gratitude journal, I passed a mile marker of three thousand gifts. This astounds me. Four years ago, when I wrote down my first few blessings, I had a hunch gratitude might improve my life. I had no idea it would become one of my lifelines over the next several years as our family coped with health challenges. Of course, God knew then my faith would need a boost. He brought me to gratitude. Thank you God.

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The Grasshopper Gift by Jamie Trunnel 

Grasshoppers, you both scare and delight with a greeting so hearty;
Jumping out like eager guests waiting for a surprise party.

A quiet walk turns into a celebration every few steps,
As you pop across the pavement giving my gait greater pep.

Keep me on my toes, my eyes aware to see
Brief miracles of life around, hopping free.

You remind me within each day lies a gift.
Even an abundance of insects can give spirits a lift.  

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Other Resources:

For more on materialism read the previous post Kick Materialism to the Curb

For more on blessings read the previous post Defining Grace

For more on finding joy read the previous post Joy > Happiness

Find Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts on Amazon right here

Note: The grasshopper photos shown in this post are courtesy of Pixabay.com

Making Pie with the Holy Spirit

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Today I made a pie. A most delicious pie, laden with the freshest fruits of the season, piled high in a flaky crust, and jelled into place with a delectable glaze.

This is my favorite pie. I’ve eaten it every summer for a long time. My mom made it for dessert when I was a kid. It tasted so good after a long hard day of make-believe, bike riding, and kick-the-can.

Today’s fruit pie, however, differs somewhat from the ones in the past. Because, while I was making it a well-known piece of Scripture came to mind. Do you know the one about the “fruit of the Spirit”?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

I paused to look this Scripture up and then tried memorizing the nine character traits as I worked. Yea, definitely a good mental exercise considering my hands were busy slicing fruit and not available for counting.

I started wondering if I really understood the meaning behind the words. So, when my hands were clean, I did some research on the Scripture and the Biblical definitions of these traits.

It was Paul the Apostle who highlighted these nine traits or attributes of Christian life in his letter to the Galatians. The Galatians were people living in Early Christian communities in a region called Galatia.

Paul’s teachings sought to convince people to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit rather than selfish desires. The Holy Spirit, he explained, produces these nine traits or fruit within us. When the Holy Spirit leads us, we become more Christ-like and our faith grows.

Becoming more like Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, means we do not seek just one or a few of these traits, but all of them. The nine attributes together, as a sum, are the “fruit of the Spirit”. The following Biblical definitions of each trait help us understand why they belong together and how they work in tandem.

Love: Agape is the Greek word used to describe God’s love in the Bible. This love is not the warm, fuzzy, romantic love we normally think of. It is loving as Christ loved – freely and unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. Loving this way means our attitudes convey goodwill, and we seek the best for others despite their actions.

Joy: Happiness hinges upon the good and bad things happening in our lives, but joy is different. Joy wells up from a reservoir deep within and offers us a settled feeling of well-being. It comes from knowing that we are cared for. Sadness still impacts us, but we feel an awareness of strength, protection, and stable love because of joy.

Peace: Knowing God controls the events of our day creates an equilibrium or inner stability known as peace. Worldly pressures and conflict still exist, but peace keeps us calm. Even in the midst of conditions that are normally upsetting and traumatic, we trust that God will work all circumstances together for our good.

Patience: Perseverance, steadfastness, long-suffering, and endurance are other Biblical text translations for patience. We demonstrate patience by maintaining a steady pace in the midst of life’s ups and downs. It allows us to find hope in difficult times, and endure poor treatment from others without retaliating.

Kindness: Kindness is looking for ways to serve and praise others without expecting anything back. Seeing things from the perspective of others develops compassion and helps us identify what we can do to serve their needs. Kindness is sympathetic, considerate, and diligently works to encourage others.

Goodness: Displaying Christ’s character in your life and helping others experience God in their life is goodness. We work towards goodness by identifying and using our gifts to love others. Sometimes, goodness requires frankness and honesty with ourselves and others.

Faithfulness: Faithfulness is a resolve to serve God and a commitment to praise others for the good work they have done. Others look to faithful people for examples of integrity. When we are faithful, we surmount feelings of doubt and help others find hope in belief as well.

Gentleness: A tranquil disposition that forgives, kindly corrects, and remains even-tempered is known as gentleness. When we display the trait of gentleness we let others make decisions on their terms; we respect their relationship with God. We also weigh our own decisions carefully and strive to stay humble in our accomplishments.

Self-control: Releasing the desire to be in charge and allowing guidance by the Holy Spirit is known as self-control. Showing self-control means we trust that God has a plan and his ways are better than our own. When we practice self-control we continually consult the Holy Spirit regarding our thoughts, actions, and reactions.

Nine character traits is a lot to work on, wouldn’t you agree? The good news is we don’t have to do it alone. In fact, the Bible says we cannot do it alone.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

This Scripture tells us the fruit of the Spirit grows within us when we have a relationship with Christ – knowing, loving, and imitating him. Joining our life to Christ ignites the Holy Spirit which leads to a fruitful life. A fruitful life, displaying the sum of these nine characteristics, in turn helps fulfill our two most important commandments – loving God and our neighbors.

This pie I made, it’s chock-full of fruit! Wouldn’t it be great if our lives, and all the lives around us were just as chock-full…overflowing with the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Hmmm…the recipe for a fruitful life – we know it’s not an easy one to follow. And, we know with certainty, it won’t turn out perfectly.

But, the Holy Spirit will help us. It’s worth a shot, right? Yea, it’s so worth it. Have a bite…

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Inspiring Resources:

Fruit Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 C sugar

2 Tbls cornstarch

1 C water

3 Tbls peach jello

4-5 C fresh fruit (I used nectarines, strawberries, and blueberries)

1 frozen pie crust (I use Wholly Wholesome wheat pie crust)

Directions:

Bake pie crust according to directions and cool.

Mix sugar and cornstarch well. Add water and mix well. Cook on medium-high heat until boiling thick and clear. Boil 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the jello. Set aside to cool.

Cut the fresh fruit, removing skin if using nectarines. Pile fruit into the baked pie shell. Pour the cooled jello glaze over the top of the fruit. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Share with family, friends, and neighbors!

Christmas Countdown Challenge, Week 2-expectations

merry christmas

Festive, joyous, bright, and full of merriment – that’s what holidays are made of. It’s what we order every year. It’s what we expect to receive. When life is good, we wait with joyous anticipation, and then, “Yes!”, we throw open the door and eagerly unwrap this type of Christmas.

Hmmm…but, there are those harder years, though, right? When the bell announcing the holiday rings, and we swallow real hard and hesitate to open the door. Because we know, this year, the package delivered won’t be what we ordered. We wanted a shiny, sparkly Christmas. Instead, we find a drab, beat up, missing-a-corner-kind of Christmas waiting on our front step.

I  pray your Christmas delivery this year is the shiny, sparkly kind we look forward to. There are several families on my mind lately who will have a more difficult time celebrating this season. This past year they battled illness, injury, and devastating losses. Chances are, people in your life are also coping with these struggles, and others like financial hardship and divorce.

We all relate to these difficulties at some point in our lives. This week, my Christmas Countdown Challenge is to help others who are hurting. Similar to last week’s challenge, I will begin by writing a meaningful Scripture on the heading of my to-do list. Before I assign priority to any task, I will read and contemplate this Scripture. While I go about my week, I will replay these words in my mind. My goal again this week is to remain less overwhelmed and more fulfilled by the season. I hope you will join me! The Scripture we will focus on this week:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 New International Version (NIV)

A few ideas on ways we can fulfill this Scripture:

  • Stop and pray. Picture a big red stop sign in your brain. Allow a moment to write down the names of the people in your life who need prayers. Next to their names, jot down your hopes for them. Be as specific as you can. For example, instead of simply praying for healing, you could pray for less pain, greater mobility, or caring doctors. Revisit these prayers each day.
  • Embark on encouragement. As you make your list for the week, include tasks to encourage those you are praying for. Maybe, include a hand-written note with your Christmas card to them. Bake a few extra treats to send their way. Offer to help them shop or take them for a coffee break. If they live far away, mail a gift certificate for an evening out or send a Christmas centerpiece to their home. In some way, let them know you care.
  • Leave a trail of joy. When you are out and about, remember to remain in the moment. Be present with the task you are completing and the people you are interacting with. If you are shopping, smile and make conversation with the clerk. If you are at work, listen to your co-workers and contribute only positive comments. Open doors, offer assistance, and dish out praise.
  • Let go and let God. Human nature convinces us at times that we can fix life’s difficulties, especially for those we love. We are disappointed when we discover we cannot. God calls us to work for him–not as him. Our toughest assignment, I believe, is trusting in a plan we cannot see. This Christmas, let’s work on letting go of things out of our control. Let’s hope that one day, when we look back inside that drab, beat up, missing-a-corner-kind of Christmas, we will be surprised to see a glimmer of treasure missed before.

Prayer for the Week:

Dear God, Thank you for staying right beside me no matter what life delivers this Christmas. Help me pray words which convey hope for others. Guide me in offering encouragement in meaningful ways. Show me ways I can serve you each day, as I try not to get lost in a holiday daze. Please forgive me when I try to run the show, and support me as I learn to trust in you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Resources:

Attached you will find a to-do list document with the Scripture for the week displayed in the heading. Print it, if you would like, and use it for your list while referring to the Scripture throughout the week. Let your light shine!

To-Do List with Scripture week 2

Joy > Happiness

Dancing in the rain

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,” 1 Peter 1:8 New International Version (NIV)

Weary from a long car ride, my then nine-year-old daughter lumbered out of the minivan to stretch, while our dog, Dandy, relieved herself. Dandy stretched, wagged her tail, and rubbed against us for petting. Struck by our dog’s enthusiasm despite the long car ride, my child asked, “Why is Dandy always so joyful?”

Similar to my daughter’s observation of our dog, do you know someone who quickly brightens or calms the moods of others? These people readily provide a smile, reassurance, or even just a sense of peace. A quick judgement leads us to assume they do not experience hardships or burdens. But, in getting to know them, we learn this is not the case. Many joy-filled people are seemingly coping very well with difficult situations. My daughter asked me this “joyful question” over a decade ago, and it has stuck with me not only for it’s humor, but for it’s deeper pondering of what joy really is.

Lately, I have been reading the book Think, Act, Be Like Jesus by Randy Frazee. In his book, Frazee writes about what he sees as an interesting difference between happiness and joy. He describes happiness on a scale of high to low; how happy we are is dependent on the number of problems present in our lives. When problems arise, we become unhappy. When problems are solved, we become happier again. “Joy, however, is not dependent on circumstances, and, in fact, ironically, can become strongest when trouble comes”(Frazee 169). Frazee states that, “Joy has more to do with remaining in the presence of Jesus than with avoiding problems and struggles in our lives”(170).

Since reading this book, I’ve been trying to make sense of the difference between happiness and joy in my own life. For example, I am happier when the furnace works, when appointments run on time, and when my family is healthy. Getting some exercise, sleeping well, and eating nutritious food also brings fewer problems, thus making me happier.

Joy takes more work to define and achieve. Even in the midst of dire circumstances like job layoffs, divorce, and serious illnesses some people demonstrate a resolve not to be defeated. They may be experiencing unhappiness, but they remain content in the knowledge that they cannot control their circumstances. Learning how to be satisfied with the status of things by trusting God, brings a reassurance which is naturally passed along to others.

In thinking about this type of trust and reassurance, I am reminded of the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Many of us were in awe of the courage and forgiveness displayed by the families of the 20 children and six teachers and administrators killed.

Scarlett Lewis was one of the parents waiting with her older son, JT, at the firehouse where parents gathered for news about their children. In a Women’s Day article titled “‘I Forgave My Son’s Shooter,’” she writes about finding words of comfort for her older son, stating, “I prayed for the words to comfort him. Somehow, they came out: I told him that even if something had happened to Jesse—maybe even the worst and he had been killed—that he was in heaven and that he was fine now. I told him that we were going to be OK too” (Web. 11 December 2013).

Trusting God to help us find the right words and actions when we are hurting is difficult. How do we get to the place where our assurances of God’s promises shine through even when discouraging things are happening? The joy displayed in our character depends upon strengthening our relationship with Christ. Nurturing joy requires planting faith-filled habits, like prayer, into our daily lives, so that turning to God becomes a natural occurrence no matter what is happening.

The more at ease we become with including God in our lives, the more we start to notice the opportunities for joy God has placed in front of us. We find ourselves turning over more of our worry to him and trusting in his plan. We start seeing the good acts around us that work to alleviate the bad. And, we begin searching for ways to join these efforts by serving him.

Life’s hardships still come our way, but we will be more equipped to handle them if we proactively work on building faith-filled habits into our lives. The things in this life that really scare us will not derail the inner contentment we feel. This contentment or joy will be visible to others through a smile, kind words or actions, or simply by offering a calming presence. Those crossing our paths, then, in turn, may pause and wonder, “why so joyful?”

Prayer for this Week:

Lord, thank you for the many blessings that bring me happiness. Help me as I work to develop faith-filled habits which nurture joy in my character. Teach me to watch for opportunities to build my trust in your plans for my life. Show me how to embrace even negative circumstances as a way to strengthen my faith, remain content, and lead others to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Scriptures to Apply:

1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,” (NIV)

Philippians 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (NIV)

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Questions to Help Make Sense of Life:

Is there someone in your life that exudes joy even in difficult circumstances? Have you ever wondered how their mind-set of faith might bring about such joy? Can you prayerfully begin to model joy for others?