For many of us, we're on the final stretch of a busy school year. We can see the end; we're just not there yet. So it's more pressing on, struggling forward, rising schedules, and late nights.
We have two options: become overwhelmed by life or let Jesus overwhelm us with His beauty.
The first option brings us to emotions we're quite familiar with. We're busy, tired, frustrated. We get distracted, lose sight of what's important, and live a joyless life. When we focus on ourselves, life overwhelms us and leaves us frazzled.
Or we could pick the latter option. We're still busy and tired with full schedules and long nights. But when we let Jesus overwhelm us with Himself, we can have joy amidst any trial.
It's easier said than done. I just spent the last few weeks rushing from course to course, test to test, and forgetting to see Jesus in it all. I grew tired and discouraged. Yet Jesus was there waiting for me to take my eyes off myself and put them on Him.
I savor this song (and Michael W. Smith's edition is beautiful!),
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
But how? How do we experience joy in every aspect of our life? How do we turn our eyes upon Jesus?
Here are some ideas that will hopefully spark ones of your own. They are not a 6-point plan to find joy, just some suggestions from a fellow sister-in-Christ who knows that living in joy is possible for those who seek Jesus with all their heart (Philippians 4:4).
#1 Discard Distractions
I'm a writer. Yet when I become consumed by other things (school, schedules, busyness), writing falls away. I push it to the back-burner because there are more important things in my life. Or at least I think they're more important.
It's the same with Jesus. We can make Him a priority, or we can hang up, telling Him we'll call back later (and then forget). But Jesus is the reason we can have joy. That's why Nehemiah 8:10 says that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
What distractions are we facing? What issues are getting in the way? Are they sin, offense, self-centeredness, or seemingly innocent things like distractions, schedules, and to-do lists?
Is Jesus more important than a deadline? Because He's the Giver of all true joy.
#2 Write a Letter to Jesus
I've grown up writing letters, but only last year did I start writing them to Jesus. There's something so special about pouring out our words in black ink spilling out of a pen and staining the paper.
If we want to abide in Jesus, we must abide in prayer. We should talk to Him throughout the day, sharing our struggles, joys, frustrations. After Paul wrote for the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always, he added,
...in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But in addition to that, I challenge you to sit down and pen a letter to Jesus. Tell Him exactly what you're feeling, thinking, hoping. Turn your eyes upon Jesus by writing your words for Him.
#3 Look Around You
When I become joyless and frustrated, it's because I forget to stop, look around, and see Jesus in my life. If we're not seeing the beauty He's given us, then we're focusing on the opposite - the bitterness of sin.
We have been blessed with a world of color, smells, tastes, and sounds. Look at the dark sky full of dazzling stars, more in number than we could count. Think of the sound of the rain against a metal roof as each drop contributes to the orchestra of His song.
If we rush through life, we'll miss all that. Often, the best days I've had are ones when I sat in silence and embraced the gifts He's put around me.
Thank You for the birds singing in those trees. When those branches shiver in the wind, are they clapping to you? And Lord, thank you for the fresh smell of country air. I'm able to sit here and see and smell and embrace creation, Your beauty, the world you created and said it was very good.
My friend, rejoice in life. Be glad when you see colors in a setting sun's horizon. Embrace music, texture, laughter, hugs, silence.
Look around you and see Jesus in every area of life.
(Read Job 38 if you want to see God's power in nature. It's an eye-opening chapter!)
Why did the psalmists compose more than a hundred psalms? And why do nearly all of them tell us to sing, make melody, and raise instruments?
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord,And all flesh shall bless His holy nameForever and ever.
Worship isn't a time we reserve for Sunday gatherings. It should be our daily life. Maybe you don't sing or play an instrument, yet you can rejoice in Jesus by worshiping Him through your actions.
But there's something beautiful in singing words of praise to Jesus' name, both alone and with other believers. I've been blessed with musically talented siblings who enjoy worshiping, and it's the best quality time we have - simply singing to Jesus.
And make sure to fill your mind with worship. If the songs you listen to are eternally focused, how much easier it is to think of Him! Waking up in the morning with a song of praise... is that not joy?
In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.
Beth Moore writes,
After we were born again, He did not leave us on earth to be loners. He wants us to bring joy to one another!
Don't become so busy that you miss out on the precious friendships of our brothers and sisters-in-Christ. They are a special source of encouragement, love, prayer, understanding, faithfulness, and yes - joy! Have eternally minded relationships and rejoice in the fellowship of those who love Jesus!
Paul often wrote about his love for others. He longed to see them. He missed them. He had joy because of them.
In the same way, we need relationships. In our busy lives, we can become so stretched and tired that we just need to recharge. What better way than to rejoice with others who are seeking Christ?
Someone needs you. They need love, a listening ear, an embracing hug. But friend, you need fellowship too. Don't let busyness take you away from relationships.
#6 Be Still
Be sill and pour out your heart to Jesus. Be still and listen. Be still and see the beauty of life. Be still and read His Word, listen to others, and savor the life He's given you.
But most of all,
Be still, and know that I am God;I will be exalted among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth!
He is God, and He is in control. We can't let worry or tension invade our lives - be still. And we can't let our schedules rule our lives as we rush from to and fro without catching our breath - be still.
Use the gifts and chase the passions He's given you, but never let go of what's most important.
Be still in Jesus.
And thus, rejoice in Jesus.
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;Let those also who love Your nameBe joyful in You.
(ps) Dear friend, if you are struggling or living a joyless life, know that you're never alone. I would be glad to pray, help, listen, or be there for you. You are being loved.