How to Pursue Joy When the Whole World Feels Angry

How to Pursue Joy When the Whole World Feels Angry

The countdown started weeks before New Year’s Eve. I heard it in conversations around me, on social media and even in books I was reading. Christmas was in the air, but for many a new year was even more promising than Emmanuel, God with us. A chance at a new beginning beckoned. The chance to say a final good-bye to a painful year coaxed people along.

I felt it too. In the final months of 2017, I heard the word “cancer” more times than I would want to hear it in an entire lifetime. Loved ones endured surgeries and countless hospital stays. Then, on Christmas morning my middle child woke up with the flu. He remained on the couch for days and our trip to see faraway family was cancelled.

I tried to remember these circumstances were temporary, but felt like a dark shadow was looming. The weight of it overwhelmed. One morning, God brought Psalm 51:12 to mind and I prayed it throughout the day on repeat.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12 NIV

Every time my thoughts went to a gloomy place, I recited it. And I realized something my downcast soul had forgotten.

Joy is something we have to pursue. It is a state of mind we must actively grab with both hands. It is not something that simply happens because of desire.

This light-bulb moment ignited something in me. I asked myself, “Is it possible to not only reclaim our joy in the New Year, but hold onto it when troubles come?” I believe it is. I know, deep in my bones, that it doesn’t take a new year to bring new beginnings. It doesn’t take a date on the calendar to reclaim the hope we somehow lost.

Here are seven ways to not only reclaim your joy this year, but hold onto it:

  • 1. Begin your day with God.

    1. Begin your day with God.

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    I am not a morning person. So, an hour of deep Bible study at the crack of dawn is not something you will often find me doing. However, I discovered that even five minutes of prayer and time with God makes a huge difference. Our mornings set the tone for the day, and when things get off on the wrong foot, it can quickly spiral downhill. Even though God is always present, he is a relational being. The more we spend time with him, the more aware of his presence and joy we are.

    Scripture tells us joy is not only a fruit of the Spirit, but is in God’s dwelling place.

    “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” 1 Chronicles 16:27 NIV

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  • 2. Give thanks when going through trials.

    2. Give thanks when going through trials.

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    I can’t tell you how many times I read these words and wondered if such a command was even possible.

    “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2 NIV

    Some truths can only be learned through experience, and I suspect James’ own hardships showed him the joy of the Lord goes beyond our circumstances. During one of the loneliest periods of my life after moving to a new town, he revealed that those moments of heartache were transforming my heart to become more like his. The more I worshipped and gave thanks despite my situation, the more he shifted my perspective.

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  • 3. Create boundaries from toxic people.

    3. Create boundaries from toxic people.

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    There are people who will find a reason to complain no matter what life brings. Whether it’s because of the poor food at the restaurant or the slow service at the store, they are never happy. The saying, “Misery loves company” was coined for one simple reason: it’s true.

    The people we surround ourselves with have a huge impact on the trajectory of our lives. If there is a person in your circle of friends who is always grumbling and darkening your outlook, consider creating a healthy boundary.

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  • 4. Be an encourager, and surround yourself with them too.

    4. Be an encourager, and surround yourself with them too.

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    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to give up on a project, dream or task, and someone offered an unexpected word of encouragement. Often, it comes from people who surprise me. And in those moments, I realize how much our words matter. I make it a point to offer the same support I received to someone else.

    In taking our focus off ourselves, we not only bring someone else joy, but we receive it as well. We see that the church is not simply about one person making an impact, but about an entire body supporting each other and building each other up.

    Joy begets joy. John states that his joy was made complete by sharing the message of Jesus’ love eternal life with others.

    “We write this to make our joy complete.” 1 John 1:4 NIV

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  • 5. Continually immerse yourself in God’s truth.

    5. Continually immerse yourself in God’s truth.

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    We have an enemy who loves to exploit our weaknesses. When we’re not equipped with the truth of God’s word, we are more susceptible to his lies. Usually the lies are aimed at the aspects of our lives where we are most vulnerable, whether it’s our kids, security, marriage, or success. The list can go on and nothing is off limits.

    Nothing can steal our joy more quickly and effectively than succumbing to lies about our position in Christ and who he is. But you know what? We have a truth-teller. A Helper. And he was sent to remind us of what is true, lovely, pure and admirable. (Philippians 4:8) The more we immerse ourselves in his word, the more the Holy Spirit transforms our minds and reminds us of these things.

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  • 6. Look for God’s goodness in the small.

    6. Look for God’s goodness in the small.

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    There are so many gifts surrounding me each day that I easily overlook when I’m not paying attention. Whether it’s a song on the radio at just the right time, or a bear hug from my son at the end of a hard day, his goodness is all around me. But often, the stresses of life consume me. Bills pile up, the kids get sick, and anxiousness stifles joy.

    Do you know what God’s grace does? It gives a reset button. At any time, we can choose to focus on his gifts.

    “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” James 1:17 NIV

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  • 7. Remember our God is a God of restoration.

    7. Remember our God is a God of restoration.

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    When I prayed Psalm 51:12 on repeat, one word stood out to me: restore. Our God is in the business of restoring the lost, broken, and weak. It’s an integral part of who he is. As a matter of fact, he promises to restore what we’ve lost when he creates a new earth.

    “He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Revelation 21:5

    When grief and tragedy consume us, all hope is not lost. Our God has promised to restore what the darkness in this world consumes. The joy he promises is not temporary, but eternal. And one day he will wipe our tears away for good. (Revelation 21:4)

    Friends, our savior entered this world so that our lives would be full. His joy is real and his love is not lacking in anything. When the troubles of this world surround you, practice these steps. Keep pursuing him and the triumph he brings. Remember he honors those who seek him, and he will meet the deepest needs of your heart.

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    Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog and at PurposefulFaith.com. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.