Sunday Series: Pursuing Joy & Hope
Hello and welcome back to the blog my dearest Reader!
Today we are up North again at our family’s cottage (you can tell that this is a near-weekly summer occurrence.) My husband and I just returned from a beautiful sail out on Lake Michigan. The water was incredibly warm, the waves were incredibly large, and I, was incredibly HAPPY.
Because as we were dropping over the enormous waves, I realized that I had an ear-to-ear smile spread across my face. When I looked behind me, I and saw my husband smiling too, and in that moment, it felt like nothing was wrong: it felt like pure joy.
This leads me to today's topic: choosing joy and pursuing hope.
I think that life can often be a series of unfortunate events.
It can feel like we've finally “got it together" in one area of life, only to turn around and immediately face another setback or problem. I know that so many of us have gone through or are currently going through extremely trying and difficult times, and I know what it feels like to constantly struggle, hurt, and feel like you CANNOT win.
This carousel of setbacks and onslaught of negativity can often be enough to make us turn inwardly, shut out the world, and consequently, shut out the joy as well.
Sometimes the pain and setbacks of life can cause us to be overly sensitive, frightened, and nervous to pursue any kind of new experience out of fear of further failure, tragedy, rejection, or pain. Life can become a series of threats instead of a series of opportunities.
Today, dearest Reader, I hope to encourage you AND myself that we must not let the setbacks of life prevent us from experiencing, or at the very least, pursuing joy.
I think it is often easy to turn down opportunities to have fun out of sheer exhaustion when we are struggling. It can feel easier, or even more comfortable to just face the problems or even wallow in the emotional pain, instead of inviting more stimuli into our life.
But I have found that when we remove ourselves from the fun in life, it can make the painful times worse, and even cause a vortex of excess emotion, pain, and struggle. Instead of offsetting our pain through moments of joy, laughter or fun, our inward struggle seems to envelop all corners of our lives until we begin questioning why we are even living life in the first place.
Now, I do not dismiss the emotional turmoil that comes with life struggles, nor do I believe that we should always force ourselves to have fun in the face of struggle, but I DO think that many of us, myself included, could afford to give into the fun just a little bit more.
Because the truth is that as long as we are living on this broken world, there is going to be trial temptation, pain, and tragedy. We will experience setbacks, loss, failures, rejections, and all sorts of problems. If we are waiting to enjoy life when the problems finally settle down, we will be waiting until the day we die.
The truth is that joy and merriment can often offset the struggles in our life. Taking pleasure and experiencing laughter can remind us of why we push forward. The lighter side of life often gives us strength for the dark times.
Now this does not mean we need to be laughing at a funeral or singing happy songs in the midst of a tragedy, but it does mean that if you are in an ongoing struggle, trauma, or trial, causing chronically negative emotions, it might be time to push yourself to experience some other sides of the human experience.
It seems to me that negative emotions have more power over us and in our lives than positive emotions.
A slightly negative emotion can ruin an otherwise peaceful and joyful mood: yet positive emotions seem to do very little at pulling us up out of grief, self-pity, or pain.
I think we can use this knowledge to become proactive in our life. In the midst of hard times, we are probably not going to “suddenly feel better.” We probably won’t just flip a switch one morning and begin miraculously feeling positive towards our pain.
In fact, I know many people haunted by their pain and struggles, well into their old age. The adage that time heals our wounds may be true in some circumstances, but in general, it can often feel that time hardens negative emotions and encourages them to linger.
I believe we need to give ourselves the push forward to search and pursue positivity and joy.
Even if our problems go away, many people still feel empty, hurt, and confused. The truth is that it is not the setback that is causing us to feel negative; it is our refusal to pursue joy.
Joy does not just spring up out of positive circumstance; I believe that it must be pursued and fostered. Instead of expecting joy and hope to miraculously appear, we must actively nurture those emotions and choose to step away from constant negativity.
It takes very little effort for most people, or at least myself, to begin feeling crappy. All I have to do is begin listening to the mean voices or comments in my head and BOOM: bad mood city.
I think it is important for us to acknowledge and process our emotions, but I also believe that we must put the work in to pursue joy because it won’t just happen on its own.
Sometimes we feel terrible because something terrible has happened and we need to process it. Other times we feel terrible because we are allowing negative feelings to fester instead of clearing them out and making space for peace.
So today, I encourage you to not refuse the joy in your life. Pursue situations, experiences, and relationships that will invite joy and encourage positivity. Say yes to the silly fun with others and agree to have fun. Say yes to a little laughter and begin pushing yourself to see the hope in life.
You will not randomly wake up hopeful in the midst of a trial, nor is anyone expecting you to.
Instead of waiting around for hope and joy to enter our hearts, I say that we pursue and invite those feelings. Invite in joy through gratitude, and invite peace through experiencing the grace of God. Sit in nature or solitude and bask in God's glory.
Remember that it is worth it to pursue the beauty of life and even more worth it to pursue the forgiveness and redemption of Christ, which brings the absolute antidote to perpetual negativity.
I am praying for you today dearest Reader. You have all my love.