Looking for Joy
I wish the kids could make their own meals. Do they really need to eat three times a day??
Someday I’ll clean the house and it will actually stay clean for more than 60 seconds.
Another dirty diaper? Really? I can’t wait for the day when we don’t have any more diapers to change.
These are thoughts I’ve found myself wishing often the last seven years. Don’t get me wrong, the four children God has entrusted to my husband and I are some of the best blessings in my life, but the warm fuzzy feeling can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of the everyday nitty-gritty.
Even apart from parenthood, I’ve often felt that I was wishing my life away.
Someday I’ll feel better and won’t wake up so tired all the time.
I can’t wait until we are making a little more money and can finally afford some of the little luxuries that aren’t in the budget right now.
Is this the year I’m finally going to meet the one? (I thought this often before meeting Aaron in the cafeteria at seminary).
I so badly want a child. When will God bless me with a baby? (We experienced the pain of miscarriage before our first baby, and again before our second baby.)
Recently God has impressed one thought on my mind: Keep looking for joy, even in the mundane or the very difficult times. If all I’m doing in my current season is wishing for the next season, then I am missing so much joy and so many gifts which God has given me in the here and now.
James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (ESV)
Some may not consider the everyday grind of parenthood (or work, or school, or whatever season you are in) to be a trial, but I would suggest that it is. James did not necessarily have in mind here the most extreme oppression or persecution, although those are certainly trials. I believe he was speaking to anything in our lives that does not naturally emit joy.
The purpose of finding joy in these difficult or tedious times, according to James, is so that we can be steadfast in our faith. Steadfastness is also translated as “perseverance” or “endurance”. Douglas Moo says, “The difficulties of life are intended by God to refine our faith; heating it in the crucible of suffering so that impurities might be refined away and so that it might become pure and valuable before the Lord.” [The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to James, p. 54]
But endurance here is not the end of the story. When we persevere, we will gain maturity and completion in our faith. We will never be perfect this side of heaven, but we will see the fruit of patience in our lives. It will become easier to find the good instead of only focusing on the bad. Rather than running from the hard times, we can choose to embrace them and find joy, and so glorify God in the process.
A wonderful example in the Bible of this process is Mary, the mother of Jesus. “In a moment she went from a simple, small-town girl to an unwed, expectant mother who was carrying the Savior that God had promised thousands of years earlier.” [The Most Important Women of the Bible, p. 112] She was almost divorced and was probably gossiped about and shunned by her family and neighbors, but she chose to find the joy in her circumstance! Luke 1:46-55 is often referred to as Mary’s Magnificat, and is a beautiful song of praise from Mary to her beloved Lord, expressing the joy that she found.
So the next time I’m tempted to grumble about having to prepare another meal, I can remind myself that I’m actually helping the bodies of my littles to grow big and strong and healthy. Picking up an explosion of toys all over the house? I can smile at the creativity and imagination my children exude while playing together. One more dirty diaper after a day full of bodily functions? One more chance to look into my sweet baby’s smiling face and see a gummy grin shining back at me.
There is joy in every circumstance. I challenge you to go and find it!
Elaina Sharp and her family have been members at Providence Church since 2014. She is married to Aaron, and has four crazy cuties: 7-year-old Micah, 5-year-old Charis, 3-year-old Zoe, and 1-year-old Elijah. She is a Master of Theology graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and owns and operates Lasiter Mechanical, Inc. a commercial plumbing business. Elaina has helped to write and develop curriculum in the past for ministries such as Campus Crusade for Christ and various women’s ministries. She has a passion for discipleship and teaching, but her main focus is on her amazing husband and the four little blessings which God gave to her, and who call her mom. Elaina and Aaron have co-authored one book, The Most Important Women of the Bible.