April 25, 2017

Finding Joy in the Darkness

The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28-7

 

This article is going to be about finding joy when everything around you defies it.  I truly believe that this is a survival skill, the ability to find joy and hope, when we’re faced with times of pain, loss and uncertainty.  Because this is a skill, it is something we need to practice now, so when there is a disaster, we can find joy and be a light to others.  Jesus promised us we would see tribulation and persecution ahead, but He also said we should:

“Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.’ Mathew 5-12

It’s not easy is it?  In fact, some days it’s nearly impossible.  We’re to be in this world and not of it, but we still get some on our shoes as we journey through.  I’m not talking about true depression, which is a medical condition.  I’m talking about when life is just beating you down.  The events that take place can affect us and some days nearly break us.  It’s hard to find joy when children and their teachers are slaughtered at their school.  It’s hard to find joy when there is job loss, loved ones with cancer or other illness and stress everywhere we turn.

But if we let this world bog us down, we are in danger of being like the world;

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” Mathew 5-13

 

Finding Joy

I am, by no means, an expert in this.  In fact, I often have a difficult time with it.  You see, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of Autism.  While I am high functioning, I do have trouble understanding and relating to certain emotions.  I don’t mean to say I am Danny Downer, my emotions are often muted, kind of a plain gelatin, if you will.

I am also a blogger who talks about preparedness and spends a lot of time thinking about dark subjects and how we can mitigate them.  Spending as much time as I do on the hard realities and the harsh possibilities can sometimes take its toll.

Because of this, I have researched happiness and joy from an analytic point of view.  That might seem like an oxymoron, learning about emotions from an analytical manner, but it’s what works for me.  What I have found is this; joy is a decision.  It is an ongoing skillset that must be practiced.  Where most people make the mistake (myself included) is when they let circumstances dictate how joyful we feel.  Instead, we can make the decision to look for bright spots in the darkness; to see the glass as half full.

My wife, who is much better than I at this, has an example; she lost her first born son after just three days.  Sure it hurt and was horrible to go through, but she didn’t let it define her.  She feels privileged that she got to have him for those three precious days.

Like I said, joy is a skillset that has to be practiced, just like shooting, canning, driving or any other skill.  We have to make the decision any and every time life starts to kick our butts.

 

Happiness is a Serious Problem

One of my favorite radio talk show hosts is Dennis Prager.  Mr. Prager wrote a book called Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.  In it, he explains that happiness is actually an obligation; an obligation we all owe to those in our lives.  He says that to be happy we often have to fight against our nature.  He explains that it is our expectations that often lead to our unhappiness.  For an example, if I have a job interview that I think I am perfect for, and I feel comfortable that I will get it.  If I don’t get the job, I may feel let down, sad or even depressed.  If I was to go into the interview with no expectation of being hired and am offered the position, I can be thrilled.  If I’m not offered the position, I had no expectation of getting it, so no harm done.

Every Friday, Dennis dedicates one hour of his show to the subject of happiness.  One Friday he actually said that for Christians and Jews, unhappiness is a sin.  He said that through scripture we are commanded to have joy.  Do a search for the words “joy”, “happy” and “happiness” at any online bible website.  Blue Letter Bible is one of my favorites, but there are many others.  You might be surprised at how many times those three words are brought up.  A very good example is Mathew 5-12; being happy when we’re persecuted.  I don’t think that is a suggestion, I think it’s a command.

If you have a hard time finding joy or being happy, I really recommend reading Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.  In fact I think it’s time I read it again.

 

What can we Do?

 

Make Room For Fun

One of the things I have recently learned is that I need to make room for fun. You see, between working full time and this website, there have been days when I woke up at 4:45am, started work at 6:30am, got off at 3:00pm and worked on the website until 8:00pm. I don’t have quite the same schedule now, but there are still days when it’s close. I enjoy working on the website. I feel blessed that I get to do so and that people actually come back to read the next article. To avoid getting burned out, I have recently learned to make room for fun. I like to play video games, so I am now making time each day just to play.

When you feel like you’re losing the battle, having something to look forward to every day makes things easier to handle. Fun and joy aren’t necessarily related but fun can chip the armor of darkness so the light of Joy can start to shine through.

 

Prayer

Have you ever had a day…or a week where everything was a battle?  That person in traffic cuts you off, your co-workers are making your job harder, and things at home are unpleasant?  You can’t wait to climb into bed so the day can just be over?  The point I am attempting to make is that there are times when things are going against us even if we’ve done nothing to bring it on.

I often think that these times can be attributed to the enemy.  I read on a forum once where someone said they knew they were being attacked.  They said “If satan or his minions are busy attacking me, they can’t be out attacking someone else”.  They took on an attitude of someone doing battle and fighting back, not just being attacked and taking it.

In these times we can go vertical and get out of the horizontal.  In other words we can get out of this world (the horizontal) and go vertical to take the problem to the King.  There have been days when this works, and others where it hasn’t.  Sometimes I need to add worship music and more prayer.

In the last month or so, I have had the same story about the happiest man alive cross my path at least three times. It is about a Buddhist Monk.  Scientists have connected 256 electrodes to his head and asked him to meditate on compassion.  The article reports that:

“Ricard’s brain produced gamma waves, linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory that were “off the charts”. It also showed excessive activity in the left prefrontal cortex. This demonstrated Ricard’s massive capacity for happiness and low levels of negativity.”

Meditation on compassion is simply getting out of the horizontal, standing in the gap and praying for others.  So, by praying for others, we can actually increase our happiness.  It also intervenes in another’s life and lifts them up to the Father.  Prayer is a mighty weapon!  Jesus said in Mark 9:20 “This kind can be cast out only by prayer”.  Imagine that!  A demon so strong that even the Messiah had to pray to the Father to intervene.

I posted a comment on another article recently about the word “Maranatha”. It is an Aramaic word which, loosely translated, means “Come quickly Lord”. I have had days when it feels like I am treading water just to keep my nose above the surface and people keep putting stones in my pockets. On these days, when the yoke of this world is too heavy for me to carry alone, I try to pray, but those prayers seem so feeble. In those times, I utter this one word prayer, “Maranatha!”

I prayed this prayer when I heard of the Sandy Hook shootings. Thinking of those terrified children and teachers, of all those grieving in such terrible pain. My words were to small, the burden to heavy, the only thing that could heal that hurt is our God, so Maranatha, come quickly Lord to those in pain.

Prayer is a mighty weapon that I don’t feel I wield well.  This is something I am making a resolution to get better at this year.  If you have any requests, large or small, that you would like a prayer warrior in training to take before the Living God on your behalf, just post it in the comments or send an email to Chris @ preparedchristian.net and I will add you to my prayer journal.

 

These are just a few examples of how you can find joy, if you have others please share them in the comment section.

 

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Comments

  1. Mike from Mass says:

    This article comes at an opportune time for me. In 8 days I will be traveling to Haiti to do some relief work at some Christian schools and orphanages. One of the things that we learned in our pre-trip training is that while there are vast depths of poverty, pain, and destruction in that country, that for many there is, and always has been, a genuine joy and contentment in their hearts….a love for God and family that many of us here do not routinely experience. For those living in a First World country, that can be difficult to imagine…how can these emotions exist while living in a place so full of hurt and poverty? I’m looking forward to seeing this first hand next week by being immersed in a culture where, for so many people, finding “Joy in the Darkness” is practiced every day, in every aspect of their lives. This trip is also an opportunity to put many preparedness skills to the test..especially in respect to putting together a day pack of supplies to head to job sites. Thanks, Chris for all you’ve shared in your blogs. I’ll be thinking of you when I have to fix something small out in the 100 degree Haiti sun and I’m the only guy around with a bundle of zip-ties :^)

  2. Wow Chris, what an article! After the election I was feeling so upset, I KNOW a Romney win wasn’t going to “fix” things, just hoping for a slow down, more time to prepare…..I have four boys, what is their future going to look like?
    My 22yr old is prepping!! He reads the prepping websites, and carries a GHB (get home bag) with him everywhere he goes! While I AM proud of him, how sad that he even has to think that way!
    It scares me when I think of what is coming….I’m going to print this out and place it where I can read it often! Thanks :)

    • Chris Ray says:

      Thanks Terri, I’m glad you liked it. I think that your son prepping shows that he is responsible and that he has open eyes. Those are two characteristics that set him apart from many people his age.

      I am concerned about what lies ahead as well, I need to keep reminding myself that God is in control, and that I need to continue preparing as He leads me.

  3. Thank you Chris, You are a bright point of light in this darkness.

  4. When it seems like nothing but hard times are ahead, I go back to Psalm 144: 1-2.

    1 Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.
    2 He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield,
    in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.

    I meditate on these verses and what they mean to me. Then I am again ready to stand straight and move forward, facing what ever comes knowing I do not walk alone.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Although you might not realize it, the timing of your article was perfect in my life, and a keen reminder that Our Great and Omnipotent God has every aspect of every life under His control. He uses others to remind us of His desires for our lives. I have recently been through a rough patch with my family, and had lost sight of joy and my heart’s desires. Settling into an unhappy assumption that I would not be allowed, due to circumstances, what God had promised, I had lost joy and was focussed on self-centered pity. And then a friend reminded me that joy (happiness) is a choice. We can choose our reactions and when I made that shift to praise and worship (joy), He made improvements in my life, and family that have helped me refocus on Him and His will for my life. Your message was a timely reinforcement. Thank you, Chris for your ministry.

    • Chris Ray says:

      God has a way of sending encouragement right when we need it, so I’m glad you found encouragement in this article.

  6. I have had such a bad week at work .This place really saps my joy. Please pray for me.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I have been there and know exactly what you mean. I will pray for you, and your company, that God’s grace surround it.

  7. Chris, I stumbled onto your website about six months ago and now I eagerly wait for each new article you write. I worried about the conflict between prepping and having faith in God. Your words have pointed me towards scripture that not only shows prepping as being prudent but also that it is an act of faith rather than a lack of faith.
    When God tells us in his word that hard times are coming, preparing for those hard times is acting on faith.

    God has blessed me and my family greatly and has spared us much of the pain and suffering most of the world experiences daily. Until reading this article, I had not considered my present joy to be training for possible hard times in the future.
    I pray that my trust in God’s perfect plan and my greatest joy which is salvation will carry me through in times of distress.

    Thanks for shining a light on a most timely and important topic.

    • Chris Ray says:

      Gord,

      I am glad you found this site, and I thank God for giving me the words to give you and others comfort and confirmation that what you were doing was right and an act of faith.

      Thank you for letting me know.

  8. Jim Moore says:

    Great stuff Chris. A timely word of instruction and a reminder.
    Indeed, practicing joy is necessary and what you said about expectation is right on spot. We can let go of our expectations of each and everyone we are in relationship with and be so much happier. It’s not easy, but doable.

  9. Thanks for this article, Chris. You’re insight on this subject is very encouraging.

    My pastor preached this very same topic today. He focused on verses in James chapter 1.

    “2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

    He was very careful to point out that it says “WHEN” you fall into various trials, not “IF”.
    This is an area that I believe many who claim Christ fail to consider.

    In 2 Timothy, Paul wrote: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

    We tend to forget (or fail to realize alotgether) sometimes that living a set apart life practically guarantees us trials as long as we live in this world. But God is faithful and it is good to encourage each other and lift each other up in that confidence.

    Thank you and God bless you for your work here.

    Rob

    • Chris Ray says:

      I’m glad to hear your pastor preached on this, I think a gentle reminder that the Word say’s when and not if, should be a message every believer in America and other first world countries should hear at least once a year. Not only to shake us from the comfort that our lives can lull us into but also to point us to verses that can help us find comfort when those difficult times do occur.

  10. Chris,

    I don’t know that you will ever read this. It’s been two years since you’ve written this post. I am brand new (this week) to prepping so your site is the first I’ve come across that is based on the sovereignty of Christ. I have been in a frenzy trying to prepare and haven’t once stopped to see the Lord in it – the other sites frightened me and are even manipulative. I’ve been prepping out of fear not faith.
    This is the only post of yours Ive read so far but didn’t want to hesitate to tell you how it has halted my fears and refocused me on the One to whom I have given control over my life. Thank you for reminding me of the freedom and peace we have in Jesus not matter the circumstances of this world!

    • Thank you Melanie. I’m sorry its taken so long to respond, but I am glad my post helped you. I hope there were others that did as well.

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