It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”Charles Dickens
Although written over one hundred fifty years ago, many of us may relate to the opening paragraph of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” All that we’ve been going through–personally, as a nation, and around the world—has triggered many polarizing views and reactions. If the disruption to our way of life and all the ensuing events has weighed on you and left you feeling weary at times, it’s understandable. And you’re not alone.
I started writing this blog on the way home from my Father-in-law’s burial. He was the second of my beloved family members to have passed away during this pandemic, after my Grandmother, and some other loved ones.
We’ve all faced loss in various forms, but where it gets tougher is the grief that proceeds the loss. How many of us have been equipped to cope with loss and grief? Navigating grief is complicated. The restrictions required during a pandemic can make that complicated process of grief even more so. While downplaying, burying, or trying to bypass unpleasant feelings may seem easier, avoidance doesn’t work. Difficult emotions actually have an important role to play on our path to healing.
For some people, embracing negative feelings may be a key to unlocking happiness according to recent research published by the American Psychological Association. Lead researcher Maya Tamir, Ph.D., a psychology professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said, “Happiness is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have. All emotions can be positive in some contexts and negative in others, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.”
While this research refers to happiness, let’s go deeper into what is “meaningful and valuable,” which is joy. Happiness is fleeting and often is based on what happens. But joy is not based on feelings; joy is a choice. In the midst of suffering, trial, and weariness, you can still have joy. It is what God calls us to in His Word:
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”Romans 12:12
Kay Warren wrote a book on choosing joy. She defines it well: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”
Perhaps some difficult things are weighing on your mind and heart in these times. With so many things up in the air, it can be overwhelming. If you’re not on guard, you may lose your joy amidst it all.
When many things are out of your control, what you choose to focus on is critical. Here are three areas to focus on to help you when you’re weary.
1. Find Refreshment in Christ when Weary
There is freedom in God’s Word, so spend time with it. Isaiah 55, or the “Invitation to the Needy,” is one scripture that is refreshing to the soul.
Come, all you who are thirsty,isaiah 55:1
come to the waters;”
Whatever state you’re in, whatever you’re worried about, whatever you’re going through – come, and drink from the well–Christ. The Living Water, He is the only one who can truly refresh you.
In verse 6, you’re invited to seek the Lord and call on Him while He’s near. If you focus on seeking God and His nearness to you, it’s hard to get consumed in those other concerns, fears, or negative feelings.
The Scripture passage goes on to say,
For My thoughts are not your thoughts,Isaiah 55:8
neither are your ways My ways,”
Don’t try to figure everything out. And fighting against what God is trying to do doesn’t help either. God is always about His work, trust in Him. He is the one who can bring good out of the difficulties you are facing.
You will indeed go out with joyIsaiah 55:12
and be led forth in peace;”
Joy and peace are what God wants for you – they lie on the other side of the pain. Struggling only makes it worse, so work on surrender. Let Him lead you in peace. Allow Him to refresh your soul.
2. Focus on Your Blessings
It’s easy to list a litany of woes, worries, inconveniences, and struggles. Sometimes you just need to vent, and that’s fine. We’ve already established that negative emotions play a role; however, there’s a difference between working through unpleasant feelings and becoming more negative. That’s more about where you place your focus.
If your thoughts are always consumed with the negatives, you become short-sited and focused inward. In that state, it’s hard to see God at work, to see the blessings. It may be hard to see at times, but that’s when you must choose to look for the gifts.
If you’re struggling with this, ask God for the grace to focus on the blessings. Ask for His eyes to see where He is in the midst of it all. It will help cultivate gratitude in your heart.
3. Fix Your Eyes on Christ
The best thing to focus on is Jesus. Fix your eyes on Him.
..let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”Hebrews 12: 1-2
He will lead you and perfect you as you follow Him. Cast aside what is weighing you down by giving it to Christ.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”Hebrews 12: 3
Christ has already prepared the way so that you don’t grow weary. Go to Him for refreshment, look for the blessings, keep your eyes fixed on Him. Let God help you work through grief or negative feelings while you work on choosing joy.