4 Ways to Live Joyfully Through Hard Seasons
- Amanda Idleman Contributing Writer
- 2021 23 Apr
We all can agree that 2020, and even 2021, have turned out to be trying years for us all. The global pandemic, strict lockdown measures, political unrest, isolation, fear, loss, and uncertainty have turned our daily lives upside-down. No one has lived through this season without feeling some sense of loss, grief, anxiety, or all of the above!
While the hardships we have faced are undeniable, there have been some surprise lessons learned, as we have walked through this chaos. The lesson that I felt God teach me through this season is about how to truly live joyfully even through hard seasons in my life.
How could I learn about joy while walking through such a tough season?
Well, the Bible answers that question! Romans 5:3-5 says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Honestly, this season has required me to grow my spiritual endurance and lean harder than ever into my faith. The result has been a deepened sense that I have access to an unshakable joy that I can experience even in the most difficult of seasons. The most valuable lesson of all the fear and uncertainty of this past year has been a deeper connection to Jesus because no matter what we face… he is the answer!
How do we live joyfully in hard seasons? Let’s explore some ways we can live joyfully, even in the tough seasons of life.
1. Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
Hebrews 12:2 says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In March of 2020 when the pandemic really hit the United States, I immediately realized that we were facing circumstances that we could not control. A raging virus is like any other natural disaster... it is unpredictable, deadly, and ultimately unstoppable. I immediately felt the need to spend my new free time praying and fasting; asking the Lord to have mercy on my home and on our world.
I spent those new-to-my-routine midday walks reciting scripture and praying that God would carry us through this scary moment in time. The choice to quiet my life and increase the time I spent in conversation with the Lord offered me the thing I needed more than anything – peace of mind!
When we are in the midst of suffering or chaos the thing we need most is time with the Lord. He is the only one with the power to protect our lives, guide our steps, and give us joy beyond our circumstances. If you are struggling, I invite you to turn down the voices of fear, negativity, and even just ones that are there to distract you and replace that time with communion with the Lord.
2. Ask God for His Wisdom
In times of trials finding the next right step can be a real source of anxiety. I know I spent hours reading all I could about COVID during those early months because I was desperate to find a way to know for sure what the wise way for my family to behave in this season should be. I realized pretty fast when I began seeing statistics and recommendations that contradicted each other depending on what site I was getting the information from, that I was not going to find the wisdom I was seeking from this world.
In this season of confusion, I was reminded of God’s invitation for us to ask him for wisdom when we need it. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” God knows the unknowable and he generously will reveal to us what we need to know if we are willing to humbly ask him to direct our steps.
Once I stopped relying on the internet to tell me exactly how to think and feel and began asking God how to help lead my family through this confusing time, I began to experience peace again!
I don’t mean to say we should move blindly forward without consulting the advice of others, but at the end of the day, our leader should be Jesus. He is the one that leads us in the big ways and tiny ways. Once we surrender to his plan for our lives, we can let go of the angst that comes when we are trying to navigate our lives all on our own.
3. Struggles Produce Gratitude that Leads to More Joy
Every single person probably on this planet lost something this year. For some it was a job, others a loved one, for some of us, it was our peace of mind, childcare, in-person events, graduation, vacation, wedding... I mean the list just goes on and on! While we have endured so much grief, the flipside to loss is a renewed sense of gratitude.
Last year when we could not gather safely for in-person church, we were thankful for live-streamed services, but once we were back in the house of the Lord I felt a deep sense of appreciation for the body of Christ that I had never felt before. Now every Sunday I get to go to church my heart is filled with gladness, anticipation, and gratitude that I never experienced before because I did not realize how sacred the gathering of saints really is.
This joyful gratitude has been applied to so many areas of my life! When all we could safely do is be outside, I grew a deep appreciation for God’s amazing creation. Once we could gather again with close friends, the joy we felt in each other’s presence was multiplied. The day we ate again in a restaurant, we marveled at the fact that someone else so graciously brought us our food (I felt like making 1,000 meals a day for my family during quarantine).
Loss can be a catalyst for appreciation which leads to new joy. It is like the changing of the seasons, we cannot appreciate the beauty of spring without experiencing the barrenness of winter.
How has God given you a deepened sense of gratitude over this past year and a half? Write it down, so as to not forget that God gives good gifts even when we face the trials of life.
4. Perseverance Grows our Faith
In what ways have you been forced to choose faith over fear this past year?
My answer is in almost every way. I have struggled with anxiety for years, so adding a global pandemic to the mix really amped up my anxiety. Every choice I made, even things as simple as the choice to go to the grocery store, became an opportunity for me to choose faith that God is with me over being crippled by my fear.
Over time, the practice of daily having to “face my fears” so I could follow the path I felt God had called me to in this season, grew perseverance. My ability to trust and have faith in what I felt God had told me to do grew. My fears didn’t disappear but choosing God’s voice over the voice of fear in my head became easier.
Joy and fear cannot coexist. The more we live by faith, the more joy we have access to in our lives. Seasons of struggle, teach us how to choose Jesus, no matter the cost. This deepened faith banishes the control that fear would like to have over our lives.
Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” God fills us with joy and peace when we believe in him.
The world is still struggling under the weight of this pandemic but that does not mean that we have to be crushed by it. God gives us supernatural joy that acts as our strength when we rely on him in the dark season of our life. This does not mean that we ignore the sadness around us. We can actually have the strength to lean in to the dark places and be the light of Jesus to those suffering around us because we have access to the one true hope for our world. May the joy of the Lord be your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/iprogressman
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.