“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I was chatting with some of my nearest and dearest recently when one of them shared how she was, at that moment, struggling big time.
She was set to go on a much needed short vacation with her husband in a few days, and she was so discouraged with her current circumstances, she didn’t even have the desire to go anymore. She listed off numerous frustrating situations including bigger issues like a sick baby, difficult family, and marriage tension. But all those were compounded by pressing immediate frustrations like a fussy toddler, self-exhaustion and unmade dinner.
The wonderful friends we are, we decided to first give the “kick in the pants” approach- essentially minimizing the current problems plaguing her and trying to put them into a more manageable perspective.
But then she said, “It’s more than that, guys.”
Then I got it. She was feeling defeated.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your bubble of situations looks like to others, when you are the one walking through them, sometimes it’s just too much.
I immediately changed my tune. She didn’t need anyone else speaking harshly, even if it was from a loving place. She needed comfort, understanding and encouragement in that moment.
My thoughts quickly went to a very recent place in my life…like literally two days prior.
I was worn from an extended family beach vacation. It was a grueling car trip there and back. Illness hit both Mike and I. We had a kiddo struggling with an ear infection and all three were having a hard time not being on a schedule. Family dynamics sometimes became abrasive as we all tried to manage living in tight quarters, with our differing parenting styles, opinions and views for a week. It was draining in so many ways. My husband doesn’t take kindly to being stressed and tired and it was all too much for him on the drive home. He was cranky to put it mildly.
The day after we got back, everything caught up to me and I just lost it. I had a short circuit of sorts. All the little stuff was just steadily chipping away at me until a huge crack developed and everything came flooding out.
Can I tell you a secret? The enemy doesn’t play fair. He plays dirty. He knows EXACTLY what to do to slowly chip away at you. He likes doing it. He likes stirring minor things up, whispering discouragement in your ear, and helping you play that long list of everything wrong in your life over and over. Then he has you right where he wants you. Defeated. Immobile. Self-pitying and exhausted in every way. There’s no way you can be effective in God’s army when you are in a pit like that.
Remembering all that, all the feelings and all the fatigue it brought, I also remembered how I pulled out of it. Gratitude. I started listing things I was thankful for. Yes the car trip was grueling, but it led to a beautiful vacation spot. Yes we got sick, but we have insurance, medication and the ability to rest. Yes the kids were out of sorts, but they were also filled with smiles, giggles, ice cream and memories. Yes it was tough being together with adult siblings and their families, but we love each other fiercely. We are devoted and loyal and make each other laugh harder than anyone else ever could. Yes my man is a crabby-pants at times, but he is loving, and genuine and home to me.
Insert breath of fresh air.
So I explained all this to her and it was good and she took it in. But it was the last thing I said that struck a cord with her.
“Choose joy, love.”
Choose it. It’s a choice. We are made as free willed creatures with the beautiful gift of choice. Once you understand that, you shut the enemy’s attacks down. No it doesn’t stop the annoying, difficult, hard life things from happening, but it stops you from losing what’s good in your life, and friend, there is so much.
What you feed grows. Feed those endless, swirling, drowning thoughts and they will take you to scary and dark places. But feed those thankful thoughts for your blessings and it’s always the best choice you could make.
So I challenge you today and everyday…
Choose joy, love.