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I've noticed that whenever I'm going through an unpleasant season, my positive outlook on life tends to dim. But as a Christian, I should be joyful. My sins are forgiven and I get to spend Eternity in Heaven. And I'm commanded to rejoice always (1 Thess. 5:16). Even so, sometimes the cares of this world seem so big that I lose sight of all my blessings.
When I take my eyes off Christ and focus on the waves instead, I instantly lose my joy.
Is your hallway stealing your joy, too? Although this is still an area I struggle in, here are three things I'm doing to help combat the loss of joy during a hallway:
Memorize verses on joy.
The Bible is full of references to joy. In Galatians, we learn that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, meaning that believers should be growing in joy. 1 Thessalonians 5 commands us to rejoice and to give thanks in all circumstances. These are probably the most well-known verses on joy, but have you ever gone through the Bible to see how often the words "joy," "joyful," and "rejoicing" appear? There are hundreds of references to joy!
If you're going through a really, really hard time where your joy is severely squelched or almost nonexistent, I'd encourage you to memorize 5 verses on joy. Read them daily. Write them out on index cards to carry with you. Study them. Dwell on them. Put them into practice. Even if you don't feel very joyful, memorizing Scripture that talks about joy is a great first step toward cultivating joy.
James 1:2 is one of the best verses to memorize about cultivating joy during hardship. "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." Although it doesn't come easily to us, we can count even our trials as joy because the Holy Spirit helps us to do it. I really should write this one on my bathroom mirror where I'll see it every day!
Keep a gratitude journal.
Although I kept journals on and off throughout grade school, I mostly jotted down random things that happened during the day. There really wasn't much purpose or direction to my journaling other than helping me to write consistently.
More recently, I've started keeping a gratitude journal. As the name implies, it's just a place to record things I'm grateful for. I simply keep a daily record of one or two things I'm thankful for each morning. Some days, it's easy to come up with numerous things to write down, but on the tough days, this practice forces me to find at least one benefit even when one isn't immediately apparent.
Another benefit to keeping a gratitude journal is that on those hard days where I don't feel very joyful, I can read through previous days and remember God's goodness toward me. This almost always inspires me to find something good about the hard days, too.
For my gratitude journal, I simply picked up a $0.50 ruled notebook from Wal-Mart during a back-to-school sale. If you need something prettier, you might want something like Crystal Paine's Gratitude Journal. What you use isn't important - you just need to use it consistently.
Choose to be cheerful.
At my bridal shower a couple of months before Jon and I got married, my great aunt gave me some of the best advice I've ever received. "There will be hard times in life," she wrote on the inside of a card. "You may not always be happy, but you can choose to be cheerful." I knew that my aunt had been through several devastating life experiences. If she could choose cheerfulness, almost anyone could.
It's not easy to deliberately decide to take on a positive disposition, especially when life hurts. But the Bible commands us to rejoice, and the Holy Spirit will enable us to obey. If we choose to focus on the blessings instead of the brokenness, we will reap joy. We can choose to be cheerful, but for many of us, it must be a conscious choice. It won't happen by accident.
In this life, we will always have hallways of one sort or another. But as we grow spiritually, we can learn to rejoice through them by keeping our eyes on Christ. Memorizing verses on joy, keeping a gratitude journal, and choosing to be cheerful are three great ways to rejoice in the hallway.
Your turn: What do you do to choose joy when life is hard?
Related: Need some help managing your time while you're waiting for a hallway to end? Subscribe below to get your copy of The Waiting Well Planner!