Choosing Joy on the Hard Days
By: Maggie Meadows Cooper
"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!" - Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT
It is raining. Again. It feels like it's been raining for ten years straight here in Alabama. And I'm so desperately craving sunshine and blue skies and big puffy white clouds. But that's not all. There are just so many little things weighing on my heart. Areas where I feel like I'm failing. The little mundane things like my dirty house and piles of dishes and laundry. And "training my children in the way they should go" is just exhausting.
Many of these things aren't big in the grand scheme of life. But they matter to me. And as I find myself in this place of just being ill and frustrated and blah today, I know that I have to find joy. I have to choose to find joy. Because my babies and others around me are watching.
A long time ago, I decided that I would praise the Lord in the good. And in the bad. As I read in Habakkuk today, I came across this beautiful reminder that he made the same choice long ago:
"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!" Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT
Wow. His list is tough. Really tough. Way more serious than my rainy days and disobedient kids and piles of dirty dishes. And still, in the midst of a situation that could be a matter of life and death, as his list came to an end, he said, "yet, I will rejoice in the Lord!"
Yet. Such power in three little letters. It means "but at the same time," "nevertheless," "in spite of that," or "come what may."
There are people struggling around us every day. Every day. And if they know that we know Jesus, we have to live out “sharing the reason for the hope that we have.” We have to truly find our joy in Him and model that "yet" in our own lives. For them.
We have to show them that because of Jesus, the hard things are not the end. And we can find joy in the middle of the yucky days. So, here are three ways to focus on creating our own "yet" when those tough times come:
1. Put things in perspective.
I am a firm believer in fill-in-the-blanks from the Word, and this is a perfect example. Grab a scrap piece of paper and write this out:
Even though___________________ and _______________________; even though ________________________ and ___________________; even though ___________________________ and _________________________; YET I will rejoice in the Lord!
It's funny how when things are written out, they take on new meaning. And create new perspective. Somehow when we see things in text, it isn't near as bad as the lies Satan is whispering in our ears. Those whispers that make our thoughts get out of control and dwelling on wild scenarios and what-ifs that, most likely, would never happen. So, the next time your day is falling apart, try this and then show those around you how to try it too.
2. Remember that the Lord is already there.
I think we forget that God goes before us... and comes behind us... every moment of every day. When we recognize and make a point to acknowledge that everything begins and ends with Him, it's so much easier to find the joy and peace we long for. Here are two verses I love that remind me that I can praise Him, trust Him, and find joy, "even though" there are hard things because I know He's already there.
"Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you." Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
"You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me." Psalm 139:5 NIV
3. Set your eyes on what matters most.
If you were to visit my kitchen, stuck in the corner of a framed family picture, you would find a wrinkled square of a paper that says, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:2
I keep it there as a daily reminder that all of my "even though’s" and "and’s" are just temporary. They won't last, y'all. One of my favorite church signs I passed years ago said, "Trouble don't last always." And it doesn't. It won't. Because Jesus is coming one day. And all of the hurts and frustrations and annoyances we feel now are just of this earth.
Keep your focus on Jesus and the things that are eternal. And talk about those things... the things of most value... with those around you. Remind them that we can rejoice after bad days at work, health issues, and loss, not because those things aren’t hard. Not because those things don’t hurt. But because our joy doesn’t come from this world.
Put things in perspective.
Remember that you are never alone.
Set your eyes on things above.
And share the reason for the hope that you have.
I pray you all find joy in the hard things today and always.
Maggie Meadows Cooper is a wife, mom, educator, author, and blogger with a longing for women to grow a heart for Jesus and others. She is the author of the children’s book “Bumper” and blogs at The Little Moments about what the Lord is teaching her through her children and everyday life. She contributes to Blogs by Christian Women, Devotional Diva, She Disciples, and Connecting Ministries. An educator with a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Auburn University (War Eagle!), she has twenty years experience working with young children. She loves all things chocolate, real Coca-Cola, and lives with her husband, three children, and two rambunctious dogs in Opelika, Alabama.
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