I Choose Joy: Serenity in Today’s Tough Times

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We all know it: 2020 has been a tough year, not necessarily a year we’d want to repeat. We all know the biggie—COVID-19 and the difficulty wrought by a global health crisis—but other issues, too, have made a tough year even tougher:

The coming election and all the bashing from extremes on both sides

Racial strife and protests, which while important has been difficult nonetheless

The economy, from layoffs and unemployment to the stock market crash

Hurricanes, fires in the west, and other natural disasters

School and childcare issues for those of us who are parents, teachers, and administrators

What used to be an escape for many—family vacations and travel—has also been curtailed.

But there’s a big silver lining right in the center of this massive thunderstorm.

Because we’re learning in the middle of this that joy and happiness are two different things, and we can find and hold onto joy despite all this… and sometimes, even happiness, too. The best-kept secret about suffering is that when it’s over and we’re through it, we’ve usually learned something valuable.

As Psalm 30:5b reminds us, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (NIV).

These times have purpose. They teach us so much. It’s not always easy to see this truth in middle of the storm, but looking back, we see it.

Here are a few things 2020 suffering has taught me:

 

1. It’s helped us all draw closer to our faith.

Our world turning on end has crystallized the important stuff in life. Our sense of mortality has helped many of us realize that our higher power, the Lord God, is in control. We learn to give over the reins and take risks emotionally and physically.

“True faith is not a leap into the dark; it's a leap into the light,” said Eric Metaxas, New York Times bestselling author, conservative radio host, and script writer for the children’s animated program VeggieTales, in his book, Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life.

 

2. It’s made us stronger.

Diamonds are formed deep within the Earth about 100 miles or so below the surface in the upper mantle. It's very hot. There's a lot of pressure, and that combination of high temperature and high pressure is what's necessary to grow diamond crystals in the Earth.

That's why a diamond is such a hard material—you have each carbon atom participating in four of these very strong covalent bonds that form between carbon atoms. So as a result you get this hard material.

We are similar—hard times make us shine like diamonds! They test us, prepare us, push us, hone us, cultivate us, and make us better. Sometimes, they help us discover our purpose.

I love this anonymous quote: “Hard times are like a washing machine. They twist, turn and knock us around, but in the end we come out cleaner, brighter, and better than before.”

Or consider what Henry Ford said: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”     

Or take these words, from Zig Ziglar: “Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.”

 

3. It’s made us appreciate the good.

Consider how you feel after the flu: If you’re anything like me, you feel like a million bucks! The sun feels so good after rainy day. The warmth of spring feels amazing after a chilly winter. Air conditioning feels so good after you’ve been out doing yard work in the blazing heat of summer.

 

4. It’s helped us have compassion for others.

Hard times teach us empathy, and leave us with more sympathy.

 

I wouldn’t want to repeat 2020 to learn these, but I’m grateful I have.

What about you—what has 2020 taught you? Is there an unexpected “silver lining” to this year for you?

Share in the comments below!


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  • Melinda Viergever Inman on

    For my husband and I, 2020 has been one of the most difficult years of our lives. One of my sons pointed out to me today that I’m not Atlas, and yet I still feel that in some way I must carry my own little world on my shoulders, for I am the matriarch of a large family. And yet, all of those lessons you detailed have been a blessing and are true, and for all we are learning I am truly grateful. This personal lesson of having absolutely no control over the hardships of life that impact my beloved people, yet again, is a time of growth, much like it was when they all launched out into the wider world. God carries our families on his more than capable shoulders. God has them in hand. He will work all of this together for the good of us and our children.

  • June Foster on

    I love this uplifting message. The best news is God’s got all things in His control.

  • Melinda Viergever Inman on

    This year has been one of the hardest years for us because family tragedies occurred just as the virus hit, thus complicating everything afterward. At the same time, we’ve grown in our faith and our reliance upon the Lord as we lived through the ongoing resolutions of these trials during this pandemic.

    Your synopsis of the hard won benefits is right on track. We’ve experienced these.



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