By Janet Pérez Eckles, Crosswalk.com
You've been there, haven't you? With no warning, life turns ugly. All seems out of control. We toss in bed at night. And during the day, fear is about to eat us for lunch.
That happened to this woman. Dressed in pure white, she pronounced her wedding vows at the altar, her heart filled with expectations of the "happily ever after." But her dreams were dashed by the tragic loss of her marriage and the rapid descent into complete blindness. Then, her heart was savagely broken by the murder of her son.
In this true yet dark recount, can joy ever be possible?
With humble boldness, this writer is the one who journeyed through such episodes. And with genuine gratitude, I give a resounding 'yes' - it's not only possible, but because of God's grace, victory does arrive, peace happens, and joy appears again.
If this crazy life erased your joy, check which of these five W's is a 'must-do' for you:
1. Wipe Away Self-Pity
Like most of us who long for something and nothing happens, Hannah cried inside her cold tent; she lamented and possibly lost sleep. She had asked for a child. Not only was God silent, but to add to her grief, she observed another woman, Peninnah, who gave birth effortlessly.
"The LORD had closed her [Hannah's] womb. And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year." (1 Samuel 1:6-7)
When we see others enjoy the very thing we long for, our pain is magnified, and self-pity clings like a leech, sucking every ounce of joy.
We're miserable until we hear from God. Often, He speaks directly through His Word, sometimes through circumstances, and for Hannah, God used Eli to speak to her.
"Eli answered, 'Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.' She said, 'May your servant find favor in your eyes.' Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast." (1 Samuel 1:17-18)
No longer downcast? No, not at all because Hannah's 'poor me' attitude turned to hope, her face changed to one of expectation, and as she ate her first good meal, her soul was nourished with renewed faith and expectation. That's when God smiled at her, and she gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Samuel.
When self-pity ends, blessings begin. And when our perspective changes, joy comes back.
2. Welcome God's Comfort
Comfort is a commodity that lost its value. Instead of comfort, this chaotic world brings anxiety. Instead of peace, panic comes. And instead of reassurance, uncertainty for tomorrow echoes through.
The Israelites walked through the same wilderness grumbling about their discomfort because even when God forgave them, provided for them, guided and protected them, "they continued to sin against him." (Psalm 78:17)
And when hardship visited them, gloom blinded them. While they focused on the world's adverse surroundings, they forgot the beauty of God's comfort. They dismissed the reassurance He promised and the guidance He offered.
We're no different. God's comfort gets lost in the wilderness of our own chaotic life. And as He observes us sinking in the mud of misery, His arms of comfort are opened wide. He has His mercy ready. And when we choose to welcome and receive it, renewed confidence begins, and reassurance ushers in sweet joy.
3. Walk Into the Future
Life for this writer turned dark in many ways - blindness at thirty, loss of a child, and a broken marriage.
Desperate and longing for life the way it was became a daily but sorry companion. I yearned to return to my sighted days, wishing my son was still with me. And longing to go back to days as a happy married woman.
No matter what you long for, dwelling in the past zaps the joy of today and leaves you stuck, unable to move forward. But when God speaks in Isaiah 43:18, His words give clear instruction. He asks a question and repeats a promise: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."
He's making way for you too. He's inviting you to walk into the future, to a new beginning (Jeremiah 29:11). And receiving that truth, the dawning of joy appears. It becomes the spring that flows in the desert of your pain.
4. Wash Away Doubt
Where is God in the midst of this chaotic world? Although that question wouldn't slip from our lips, it does rumble inside us. It does as we witness tragedies, hurricanes, wars, inflation, and immorality. They pile up on top of the personal stress and conflicts. As we sink from the weight of the burden, faith wanes, and we entertain doubt. It becomes the first step taking us down to the basement of fear. As we head down, we ask: is God going to change things? Can He turn things around? Is He able to stop the dark news?
Instead of answers, things seem to get darker. We wring our hands, trying to cling to faith and make it through one more day. This psalmist might have stepped into that same doubt which prompted similar questions:
"Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?" (Psalm 77:7-9)
The answer wasn't so much in what he thought or how he felt. But answers were in what he remembered:
"I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds." (Psalm 77:11-12)
Doubt disappears when we remember the same mighty deeds: God sent Jesus to set us free (John 3:16), gave us power not fear (2 Timothy 1:7), He fights our battles (Exodus 14:14), and promises His protection (Psalm 91:1-2).
When the power of God's truth washes away doubt, joy makes its glorious entrance into our souls.
5. Watch Out For the "Joy Thief"
How often have you heard, "the joy of the Lord is our strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)
We all have. We repeat it, find peace in it, and remember it. But the minute we read another dark headline, receive that unexpected phone call with bad news or that prayer we've said for the millionth time isn't answered, the joy of the Lord fades.
That's when the enemy of our soul steps in. He is aware that if he can steal our joy, our strength is zapped. We become spiritually weak and become his tasty prey waiting to be devoured.
Elijah is an example. He saw God answer a bold prayer. He sent fire from heaven and burned the sacrifice Elijah had built. Thus, proving God was almighty, able to perform miracles that defy man's comprehension. Elijah saw it all. Yet when Jezebel sent word she would kill him, panic set in, and he took off running. But when he dropped exhausted, God provided, and joy returned.
No matter what devastating loss invaded your life, joy still pulsates within you. God's voice will bring it through as He whispers: "Trust in me; I'll direct your path. Follow me; I'll lead you to quiet waters. Find joy in me, and that will be your strength."
Jeremy Stalnecker seeks to help his podcast listeners answer one of the toughest questions we all face: "How do I move forward when my world is falling apart?" You can listen to every episode of March or Die for FREE on LifeAudio, or listen to an episode right now by clicking the play button below:
Janet Perez Eckles is inspiring thousands to overcome discouragement and fear through her work as an author of five books and as an international speaker and founder of JC Empowerment Ministries. Learn more at www.janetperezeckles.com.