It’s January. I’m like most of my southern friends – January is more a month to be endured than enjoyed! I’m not a fan of cold weather. Snow is fine, as long as it melts and goes away the next day. No matter the day, month or season, I’d rather be on a warm beach than about anywhere. This time of the year, I’m always looking for anything that might remind me of the fact that it won’t be winter forever. If I find anything that resembles new growth (or flowers!) I’m absolutely giddy!
One February, many years ago, back when my husband still battled MS and we only had one child and life just felt too hard, the dear husband and I went on a couple’s retreat in the North Carolina mountains. There was no snow, but it was cold. And dreary, despite the fact that the sun was shining. The bare branches and dead grass and total lack of color, save brown and the deep green of the evergreens, were just dismal. Of course, I went on a search for color. Remarkably, I found a patch of tiny purple flowers that had managed to thrive in a patch of sunshine on the side of the mountain. I was overjoyed!
You know, life is seasonal. To me, the hard times are like winter. I’m always impatiently waiting for it to pass so I can get on to more colorful life! Sadly, God’s timetable and mine seem to be quite a bit different. But, He sends us the equivalent of those little purple flowers. It’s joy.
Nehemiah 8:10 says “The joy of The Lord is your strength.” This was said to the people at a time when they had long been ignoring the laws of God. They had been in captivity. But now, Nehemiah had showed up, helped them rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and they were observing one of the feasts of the Old Testament. As the people began remembering the sins in their past, they were grieved. But the priests reminded them this was a happy day and they should be joyful. He also knew if they grew despondent, they would have trouble fighting off the enemy.
Guess what? That’s true for us too! Christians should have joy. How else can we offer hope to a dying world? And, as we’ve discussed, we’re fighting an enemy too. If we’re despondent, that ol’ devil is going to take advantage of the situation.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking: But…life is hard! Am I supposed to be happy when I don’t have enough money to pay my bills? Or when I have a sick parent? Or when I’m having marital issues? Or when my child is estranged from me? Or…(fill in the blank)?
Well, no. Not happy. But happiness and joy are different. Do you notice how the words happiness and happen start the same way? That’s because they come from the same root word. So…happiness happens. It is dependent on circumstances. Joy, however, comes from The Lord. In fact, it’s a fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” In other words, if you have the Holy Spirit living in you, then you have access to all those things.
So, how do we access that joy in the midst of hard times? 1 Samuel 30:6 says, “David encouraged himself in The Lord.” And that’s our answer too. It’s God. Spend time with Him. Praise Him (yes, even on the bad days!). Worship Him. (I have heard it said that worship is “warship” – a way to fight the enemy). Speak His Word aloud-there is life in God’s Word! And trust. Trust that He will meet you, even on the rotten days, and give you just what you need to make it through.
Are you having a winter? If so, I hope you’ve read with an open mind and heart and will lean into God and His strength. If not, if you’re in a good season, then I urge you to look around for someone who’s experiencing winter and offer them some hope! Either way, I hope you’ll…
Be blessed and tell someone you love them.