We’ve all experienced it. That feeling that ranges from simply feeling “blah” to feeling downright hopeless and depressed. It’s called the “blues.”
“Nothing can make a trusting Christian blue,” I’ve heard somewhere along the way. The implication that if we’re feeling blue we’re not trusting God puts us all on the defensive a bit. After all, I doubt any of us have escaped a time when we felt down.
Isn’t it perfectly normal to feel down at times, especially when bad things happen, or when life isn’t the way we’d like it to be, or when others treat us in hurtful ways?
Well, yes and no. While it’s true that feelings of sadness, grief, and disappointment are perfectly normal responses to undesirable circumstances and it’s important we process those feelings, we can still simultaneously be experiencing joy in Jesus.
Seem impossible? How do we move from being overwhelmed and controlled by negative feelings to experiencing joy even in the middle of undesirable circumstances? Don’t the circumstances have to change first?
I’m so grateful that joy and contentment in Jesus are not dependent on circumstances! We can’t control circumstances, but we can experience continual contentment and joy, no matter what. How is that possible?
The number one step to experiencing joy is fully believing that God is good, no matter what.
Belief in God’s goodness is foundational to trusting Him. When we doubt that He is good, or that everything He does is good, our trust in Him is on shaky ground. Our joy is, too.
We doubt God’s goodness when we blame Him for the bad that is a result of living in an imperfect world full of imperfect people. When we blame God, we create a distance in our relationship with Him that keeps us from turning to Him in full trust so He can help us. How can we receive help from Someone whom we are blaming for the bad?
When my brother-in-law was sick with cancer, my sister often made the statement, “God is good all the time.” Even though at the time she didn’t know if her husband would live or die, she was intentionally reinforcing her belief in the fact that no matter what was happening or would happen, God was just as good then as He was when all was going well.
Experiencing negative circumstances does not mean that God is not good!
God’s goodness is that He never forsakes us, even when everyone else does.
God’s goodness is that He walks with us “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
God’s goodness is His mercy and grace when He sends a friend to encourage us or points us to a Scripture that lifts our spirits.
God’s goodness is in the many little blessings of enjoyment we encounter every single day: a million stars sparkling against a black sky, a child smiling at us, the delicious flavor of a food we love, or a phone call from a friend.
The second step to finding joy is being grateful.
“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 HCSB)
Some have debated whether this verse means to give thanks for everything, even the bad, or if it simply means to give thanks to God no matter what happens.
Whichever it means or however you choose to interpret it, it seems evident that God is looking for a heart that praises Him because it shows our complete trust in Him and His goodness. Not only does our gratefulness bring Him much glory, but when we choose to praise Him our hearts naturally begin to trust His goodness, and that trust leads to joy.
The next time you feel blue, first of all recognize that experiencing negative feelings is a normal human response to a negative situation. But before you allow those feelings to take over – and they surely will if you let them – identify God’s goodness in the midst of that situation and thank Him for those signs of His goodness.
If you can’t immediately see signs of His goodness, choose to believe that God is good, no matter what, and then start praising Him whether you feel like it or not.
Feelings of joy may not immediately flood your heart, but it’s impossible to focus on God’s goodness and continually praise Him without eventually experiencing at least a little bit of joy!