WARNING: The following words will empower you. Stop reading now if you want to stay stuck. Read on if you want your life to transform.
Romans 15:13 – I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel joyful. Nor do I always feel peaceful, happy, patient, kind, or energized. Sometimes, I get downright cranky, and I used to get stuck there. In fact, I used to be a champion martyr/wallower. If wallowing were an Olympic sport, I would have taken home the gold every season! I mean, I put in the work. I practiced hard at my craft every single day and sacrificed countless nights of sleep to deepen my understanding of it! In my mind, my story was always worthy of sympathy and worse than yours. I couldn’t listen or be a good friend because I was too busy telling you about my disaster du jour. I had some serious secondary gain issues from my misfortunes, meaning I subconsciously sought to fill my cup with people’s sympathy because I didn’t look for my fulfillment in God. Thankfully, Jesus changed me, and if you’re a gold medalist-quality wallower, He can change you, too.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2
God did this by showing me I was choosing wrong. Joy is a choice. I will take it a step further and say that joy is a discipline. Like working out, you can only strengthen your joy muscle by exercising it regularly, and you get the best results if you choose to exercise it, even when it’s inconvenient, or your circumstances don’t match the feeling. Because of this practice, I now know my less joyful times do not dictate my ability to feel joy in the future, and they don’t mean that I will be stuck in that mindset for long. In fact, my wallowing thoughts have actually become a trigger for gratitude, which is the precursor to joy.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4
My joy-creating gratitude practice started when we were in the middle of losing our home. My husband’s employer closed its doors during the recent depression, flooding the market with hundreds of people with the exact same qualifications, so it took him a very, very long time to find work, and when he did it was minimum wage. I slaved away at three jobs to pay the bills, but, on more than one occasion, we had to eat in the dark because of choosing between using the money for the electric bill or food. My anxiety and depression levels were through the roof, and I felt like a complete failure, but I knew I had to keep it together for my son.
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. – Colossians 2:6-7
I didn’t know God very well then, but I prayed about it, and He showed me I needed to focus on the things I could be grateful for. I started a new tradition then, and every night, when I tucked my son into bed, we had what we called “Thankful Time,” where we would share what we were grateful for from our day. We talked about everything: a kind thing a friend said, how delicious a simple food tasted, something helpful his dad did that day, the fact that we had family and love and God in our lives, and so on. That practice changed my life. It allowed me to start seeing God everywhere and to recognize Him working – even in the hard times.
Fact: You cannot wallow when you practice gratitude. These mindsets are mutually exclusive, and one will cancel the other out. It’s entirely up to you to choose which one does the canceling.
Over time, gratitude became my knee-jerk reaction, and with it came a natural state of joy. God pulled us through the foreclosure, as He always does, and taught us many lessons. We now have Thankful Time every night as a whole family, and it’s changed all of us for the better. We have a joy-filled, God-centered home now. No, our lives definitely aren’t perfect, but we see God’s perfection in the imperfections. Now, when we have a situation or circumstance, right away, we start looking for God at work, asking for His guidance and to help us learn what He needs us to learn. Thanks to God’s prompting, this practice changed how we pray, how we interact with perceive the world, our lives, and our relationships. We recognize our blessings much more quickly, steward them better, and we seek God faster.
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13 (BSB)
As a family, and as individuals, we choose joy. We decided to let God fill our cups to overflowing with His goodness. You can, too. Gratitude will change your life. It might feel foreign at first, but it’s so easy. You can start by praying about what you’re grateful for in the morning before you get out of bed, or by telling God five things you were thankful for from your day during your nightly prayers. Tell Him about the big stuff and the little stuff. Strangely, recognizing the small things is where the most transformative power of this lies. You can also start a gratitude journal and log three things a night – imagine the power of going back and reading it later when difficulties arise! One of my co-workers even shared she used a stop sign as a trigger for her family shout one thing they’re happy about while you’re driving. Get creative and do it! I dare you. When you start looking for God, God will change your life.
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. – Lamentations 3:25 (NIV)
My prayer for you: God, thank you for the beautiful woman who took the time to read these words. Thank you for using them to empower, uplift, and edify her, bringing her closer to you, and helping her to understand your deep, unconditional, abiding love for her. Thank you, God, for transforming her life. Thank you, Father, for helping her to recognize she is your child. Yours. Forgiven, loved, absolved, and justified. And Jesus, if she doesn’t know you, or if she’s distanced herself, I thank you for these words piercing her heart in such a healing and beautiful way that it opens up room for you to enter in. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.
Thank you for reading! I know how valuable your time is.
Did this help or inspire you? Or, do you have a joy or gratitude practice other people could benefit from? Either way, I would love to hear from you. Let’s create a community of supportive, God-loving women! Help the other ladies know they’re not alone by sharing your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.
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