Years ago, my parents’ farming neighbors decided to haul in a massive mound of manure. Why, I never knew. But, living out in the country, surrounded by cows, one takes the risks with smells and such; even so, this stench overreached anything they’d experience. I don’t know if there’s a law about disturbing the peace (with odors), but there should be. Whenever my husband and I would go over to my parents’ house to visit, we’d keep the windows rolled up and hold our breath getting into the house. Compound the situation by making me 3 months pregnant, and the trek over made me heave. I had to wet a handkerchief or towel and hold it over my nose to keep from puking.
Sometimes life dumps a pile of poop in your yard and you’re surrounded by the smells and mess it brings. We can’t always get rid of it, but we can take some measures to filter our breathing when we’re dealing with life’s defecation.
Designate joy. Our hearts overflow when we focus on the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We have a Home and a Person awaiting us one day, and He’s in the here and now with us, forgiving our sins, extending continual love and mercy to us. Because of His redemptive work in us, because of Who He is, we have a lifetime of joy to pull from.
Disown whining. A thankful spirit rarely complains, regardless of how hard life’s messes become. When I feel bitterness, anger, or griping overwhelming my spirit, the best thing I can do is start thanking God for all the good He’s doing in my life (for He is never apathetic or inactive). Recognize that the LORD of the Universe owes me nothing. If He didn’t do one more thing for me, He’d already have given me more than I deserve. And for Him–and His salvation–I always have cause for gratitude. Write a list down, praise Him for Who He is and what He’s done.
Dismiss fear. If we see fear as the antithesis of faith, then we will struggle to trust and rest in God when we’re feeling anxious. Instead of trying to “fix” our situation and avoid the disquieting triggers, we can “focus our attention on the ground of our joy, the source of our joy.” Our LORD isn’t a feeble, limited god; He is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. By Him we move and breathe and all things are held together. (Col. 1:17, Acts 17:28)
“When we find ourselves depressed, down, irritated, annoyed, or otherwise unhappy, we need to return to the source of our joy, and then we will see those circumstances that are sapping our joy in perspective. The circumstances of this life will pale into insignificance when compared to that which we have received from God.” (R.C. Sproul)
Lasting joy can’t come apart from Christ. “[…] when we as Christians try to find our happiness in people–even our children–our grip has slipped from the main masthead and our sails will never fully expand in that sea of hope. Hope will falter on anyone but the One. Taking it further, we cannot simply come to God for a reservoir of happiness. Seeking Him as anything but Him and His glory is to worship ourselves. Where is my happiness, God? He promises us joy in His Presence, but we come to Him for Him, not for our happiness. A fine distinction worth noting. When I am in His Presence I feel joy because of Who He is and He never falters. Everything else morphs, and therein lines the beauty of joyful peace in our Father” (taken from Navigating a Sea of Emotions).
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” –John 15:11
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” –Romans 15:13
Right now I’m praying over friends (and fellow Americans) who are facing such horrific floods, fires, and hurricanes. My natural human weakness screams fear and discouragement over my soul, but I know God can bring beauty from ashes. He efficiently uses all situations to bring us to Him, if we listen. I am praying that those impacted by the disasters will reflect, turn, and seek Him as their Source of strength, hope, and purpose. This stuff stinks, but thankfully, this life isn’t all there is.