How To Keep Your Joy In Hard Times

easter-cross“…in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus told us that we would experience troubles in life – “trials fall like rain on the just and unjust” and “the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy…” We can’t change the fact that at some point each of us will walk through a season of tribulation. But notice Jesus said, “be of good cheer.” What does He mean? How is it possible for us to “be of good cheer” when a member of our family dies, we lose a job or go through a divorce? How is it possible?

Jesus wouldn’t have made the statement if it were not truly possible.

First, we need to understand that there’s a difference between happiness and joy.

Happiness depends on HAPPENINGS and joy depends on JESUS. 

Since joy depends on Jesus then I want to share three ways you can keep your joy in troubled times.

1. Rejoice always, no matter what your circumstances might be.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Notice it says, “in” everything and not “for” everything. To rejoice means to show joy even when you don’t feel like it. Remember, your not rejoicing because of the bad situation – your rejoicing because Jesus gives us strength to endure all of life’s struggles. “Rejoicing” is a lifestyle characterized by a positive God-oriented attitude that sees mountains of trouble as mere stairs to success. When I leave out rejoicing then I can be assured that joy is going to be left out too.

2. Focus on Jesus who lives on the inside, instead of the trouble happening on the outside.

It’s impossible not to feel the affects of the storms we face in our lives, but we don’t have to lose our joy. During the troubles we face it’s easy to get swept away and to lose site of God, but remember that God gives us strength. Through the Holy Spirit who lives inside we can have peace and not lose our joy when troubled times come.

3. Make sure Jesus is your source of strength.

When hard times come your way, and they certainly will, you will lose your joy if Jesus is not your source of strength. Unfortunately, many people make their source of strength things other than Jesus. For example, some people make their job the source of their strength. Others make their bank accounts and retirement accounts their source of strength. Still other people make their spouse or children their source of strength. All of these are important parts of our lives, but they were never meant to be our source of strength. What happens if any one of these important parts of our lives were to disappear?

The truth of the matter is that real joy can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Christ there is joy and peace for troubled times. Jesus made our joy complete by his death on the Cross.

Hebrews 12:2 states, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus saw before him the opportunity for you and me to receive a complete pardon for our sins thereby making a way for us to have a relationship with God. Because of His great love for us and the joy that was to come, He was able to endure the pain and suffering of the cross for us. Because of the Cross we have the assurance that no matter what circumstances we may face in the world, Jesus Christ has overcome them for us.

You want to keep your joy in troubled times? Remember this:

Happiness depends on Happenings and Joy depends on Jesus.

How To Make Wise Decisions In Difficult Times

Fork-in-the-RoadProverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Have you ever found yourself standing at a fork in the road? Each fork represents a different direction for your life and a decision you must make. Possibly a very difficult decision-one in which, depending on the path you choose, could have a significant impact on your life and the life of your family.

How do you know which way to go?

Most people make decisions based on four primary motivations:

1. Circumstances – making decisions based on the situation or the circumstances that surround your life.
2. Convenience – making decisions based on the path of least resistance or the quickest way to a particular goal.
3. Critics – making decisions based on the ideas and opinions of others.
4. Convictions – making decisions based on deeply held beliefs.

There may be an occasion when making a decision off any one of these motivations was successful, but I would suggest an alternative process for the hard life-changing decisions we must make.

Below are the five steps to making wise decisions:

  1. Clearly Define the Decision(s) to be Made. Someone might say you should pray first, but I would suggest defining the issue and then pray accordingly. Wise decision-making is informed decision-making. (Psalm 119:130)
  2. Pray. Ask God to give you wisdom, discernment, and an open mind. Prayer often brings us to a place of clarity. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  3. Seek Biblical Wisdom. The Bible is full of wisdom to help you make the right decision. Seek Biblical wisdom to help you make decisions that are consistent with the teachings found in God’s Word. (Psalm 119:105)
  4. Seek Wise Counsel. After you’ve defined the issue, prayed over the decision, and sought Biblical wisdom, it’s important to seek wise Christian counsel. Wise counsel has always brought me clarity with the hard decisions. (Proverbs 15:22)
  5. Trust God with the Direction. When you’ve done your part then it’s time to trust God with the outcome. This doesn’t mean the path will be easy, that there won’t be bumps along the way, or that you won’t have to make adjustments on your journey, but remember to trust God. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Trusting God and having faith in Him, throughout the journey, will help you make wise decisions in difficult times.

PRAY – DAY 20

tumblr_ndzgg2cDWb1so3z9fo1_500Light and Dark

Dear Lord, help me keep my eyes on you. You are the incarnation of Divine Love, you are the expression of God’s infinite compassion, you are the visible manifestation of the Father’s holiness. You are beauty, goodness, gentleness, forgiveness, and mercy. In you all can be found. Outside of you nothing can be found. Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere? You have the words of eternal life, you are food and drink, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are the light that shines in the darkness, the lamp on the lamp stand, the house on the hilltop. You are the perfect Icon of God. In and through you I can see and find my way to the Heavenly Father. O Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One, be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide, my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy, and my Peace. To you I want to give all that I am. Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant. Let me give you all – all I have, think, do, and feel. It is yours, O Lord. Please accept it and make it fully your own. Amen.

– Henry Nouwen

  • “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” Isaiah 9:2
  • “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:2
  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
  • “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39
  • “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9
  • “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, evenwhen we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved …” Ephesians 2:4-5
  • “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
  • “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
  • “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:2
  • “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7
  • “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

Prayer Challenge: Ask God to help you keep your eyes on Him. To fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can be a vehicle of God’s love and grace. Take a moment and forgive those who’ve hurt or wrong you. Ask God to help you walk in the light of truth and to show you any areas of darkness in your life.

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PRAY – DAY 18

Prayer For Inspiration

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting

Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.

Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace, then. Put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually: “The Lord is my strength and my shield.

My heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me but in me, and I in Him.”

St. Francis de Sales

  • “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”  Luke 18:27
  • “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.”  Romans 15:5
  • “If God be for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31
  • “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad.”  Proverbs 12:25
  • “Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.”  Isaiah 49:13
  • “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  Colossians 3:2
  • “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”  Colossians 3:23

Prayer Challenge: God I have so much swirling around in my life today. There are numerous problems in which I don’t know what to do. Help me to rely on you to give me strength. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me to trust in you.

 

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PRAY – DAY 17

prayingBlessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Bring me to see that what I have is there to be shared.

Bring me to see that what I have is not the last word in my life.

Bring me to see that ultimately my security, my peace of mind depends not on my talents,

not on my achievements, not on the status that goes with these, but on knowing that all that I have

gains its meaning from you.

To know this, Lord, is to know both poverty and riches.

– Rex Chapman (Anglican Chaplain)

  • “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3 NLT
  • “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 NLT
  • “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NLT
  • “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” Hebrews 13:5 NLT

Prayer Challenge: Give thanks for all of your blessings. Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you and to live according to His will.

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PRAY – DAY 16

wisdom-large-3Prayer For Wisdom

Lord, your word declares that I can come to you, the source of wisdom, for wisdom. I ask that you would not only give me wisdom of men, but the wisdom of God. I pray that you would impart into me divine wisdom, that I may be able to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

I pray dear Lord that you will instruct me and teach me in the way I should go (Psalm 32:8). Direct my steps, let my ear be inclined to hear your voice, and correct me when I have gone astray.

I pray for the gift of discernment; help me to know the difference between Godly and ungodly intentions, spirits, prophecies, actions and gifts. By the power of the Holy Spirit, help me to know who has been sent by you, and who has not.

Lord, help me to be quick to hear and listen, slow to speak (as to wait for His direction), and slow to anger. (James 1:19) Let the words of my mouth speak truth with wisdom, but in simplicity so that all may understand and benefit by them. Thank you for your word and for your instruction.

In the mighty name of Jesus I pray and declare these things, Amen.

  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” Psalm 111:10
  • “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.” Job 12:12
  • “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” Psalm 3:7
  • “For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” Ecclesiastes 7:12
  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6

Prayer Challenge: Pray that God would give you wisdom to discern the truth and to guide you in your daily choices. If you have a big decision to make or a problem in which you don’t know the right answer, ask God to help you.

 

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PRAY – DAY 15

534049_origPray For Endurance 

Lord, help us to remember that your thoughts are different than our thoughts. That you desire what is best for your children and that your timing is perfect. Help us to be diligent in seeking you and your direction, and to cling to who you say we are, not the identity that the world would assign to us. Lord, help us to remember that these bodies are just tents and our homes are just piles of sticks and rocks, and they, along with everything in them, will someday turn to dust. Help us to be mindful of what matters; what lasts, is you and your Kingdom and your children. Help us to align our thoughts to the truth and to operate accordingly. God help us rearrange our priorities so that they match up with your priorities. Help us to see those around us as you see them and to treat them as you would treat them: with love and grace. Help us to put others before ourselves. Lord, help us to be on mission in the world and to remember that your children are what matter. Give us strength to endure. Amen.

  • “Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.” 2 Thessalonians 1:4
  • “A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. “He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.” Isaiah 42:3-4
  • “…but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love…” 2 Corinthians 6:4
  • “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope….” Romans 5:3-4
  • “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

Prayer Challenge: Read the Scriptures.  Re-write the pray above and make it your own. Allow it to be your meditation for today.

 

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PRAY – DAY 13

Pray For Peace

Compassionate God and Father of all,
we are horrified at violence
in so many parts of the world.
It seems that none are safe, and some are terrified.

Hold back the hands that kill and maim;
turn around the hearts that hate.
Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace –
peace that passes our understanding.

Make your ways known upon earth, Lord God,
your saving power among all peoples.
Renew your Church in holiness
and help us to serve you with joy.
Guide the leaders of all nations,
that justice may prevail throughout the world.
Let not the needy be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Make us instruments of your peace
and let your glory be over all the earth. Amen

  • “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
  • “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
  • “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
  • “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

Prayer Challenge: Pray for Paris and all those who were affected by yesterday’s tragedy. Pray that the Church would rise up in love and be a vessel for God’s grace. Pray that God’s light would shine in this darkness and that people would know God’s love and experience the “peace that passes all understanding.”

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PRAY – DAY 12

“Do It Anyway”

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

-Mother Teresa

**This version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta.

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25

Prayer Challenge: Mother Teresa’s prayer reminds us that we have to choose how we are going to respond to the situations and the people we encounter in life. Pray for the strength to choose to forgive people who are irrational and unreasonable. Pray for patience and be kind to the selfish people you meet. Choose to be filled with joy no matter what the circumstances around you may be. Pray for the courage to to do good and to offer your best in every arena of life no matter what others may do or say.

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PRAY – DAY 11

SS_Psalm91_11Prayer For Protection

Psalm 91

1Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.a
2I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14“Because heb loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Prayer Challenge: If you find yourself in a desperate situation call on the Jesus and know that He “will answer” you. What seems like an impossible situation to you is not impossible with God. Cry out to God, He will hear and answer you. If you don’t have the words then allow Psalm 91 to be your prayer.

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