I don’t know about you, but I have had a year this year. It has been filled with good things and wonderful people and God moving in my life and the life of people around me. This year has also been filled with trying, scary, expensive, (and not in a good way) frustrating, exhausting, overwhelming, and sad things. So, closing out October in the midst of yet another trial, had me feeling crushed and disappointed and like I could not wait for this year to be over. Like somehow, the turning of the calendar was going to change everything. The word January would magically erase this horrible feeling, and all would be well. But when the recovery from this trial is over, we will probably be well into January and so my solace could not be found in the turning of the calendar pages. Then I tried just comparing this year to past years that were hard or my life to the life of other people. I didn’t have it as hard as so and so. At least my life wasn’t as bad as Job’s (you know that guy in the Bible who lost everything) … but that didn’t really make me feel any better. All that comparison led to was me trying to hide the fact that I was impacted by my circumstances.
I remembered that I had read in Victory over the Darkness in Friend to Friend (an amazing one on one mentorship program we have here at Family Church) that so much of my experience in any given season of life has to do with my perspective on that experience.
“You are not shaped as much by your environment as you are by your perception of your environment. Life’s events don’t determine who you are; God determines who you are, and your interpretations of life’s events determine how well you handle the pressures of life.”
– Neil T. Anderson
It dawned on me that the only way to change this year would be to change my heart about this year. I was feeling desperately in need of Joy.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law
– Galatians 5:22-23
Because I have the Holy Spirit it means I am capable of producing the fruit of joy. But how, how do I cultivate joy when what breaks my heart or makes me ache is all around me? What do I do when the fruit of this hard season is so prevalent? Then I came across this verse in my morning devotions.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
It seemed God had sent me an equation; rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in ALL circumstances (my emphasis added). This is God’s will for me. I was going through the year and to be honest I saw the terrible things that had happened in bold print and it seemed to diminish the good things. I needed, desperately, to change my vision, to change my perspective, and to highlight and bold and underline the good things God has done this year. So, I was grateful when the next day was November 1st and I decided that I would enter the month of Thanksgiving with much thanks.
This month I am choosing to cultivate joy by counting my blessings and by taking each day and looking for the great and wonderful and good and filling and sweet and precious gifts that God has given me. I decided this year I was going to start with the small things. The things so little that they could be missed by the untrained eye. Things like the smell of coffee in the morning, a hot shower, warm clothes. I want to take a moment. I want to take 20 moments a day and notice all the wonderful things God is doing in my life, all of the great blessings He has given me. I am bolding and underlining and highlighting the good, and amazingly the bad is much easier to endure. Amazingly the bad doesn’t seem to have the power overwhelming the good like it did before. I have found that cultivating joy starts with the small and simple step of changing my view. I have found that cultivating joy starts with being thankful.