If life is full of mountain tops and valleys, I would say that navigating my mid-twenties has been some intense, steep, narrow mountains. It’s a constant up and down as I navigate life, learn more about who I am in Christ, and what it looks like to be a twenty something.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been memorizing James 1, and it’s proved fitting for the personal things I’ve been walking through.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…”
Count. It. All. Joy.
I’ve spent the past week working on a development teaching for our summer interns and residents on “How to avoid burnout”. It’s so ironic that almost every time I get to teach it is on something I’ve just finished walking through; or in this case, more like climbing out of the pit of burnout – on my belly, dragging myself up out of the hole, muddy and disheveled. Can you picture it? I can, it’s hilarious, and slightly pitiful.
Here’s the thing, the pain I feel these seasons can be completely avoidable, but has been so necessary for my growth in Christ. Isn’t it funny how, some really silly choices could have been prevented– if you know, we saw the whole picture, could know everything about people’s intentions, and were always super wise? However, since I am (and you are) human we make decisions that sometimes don’t end up like the funny rom-com, or make you the heroine in a cool documentary on the life of someone who magically changed the world. Sometimes life is just painful.
How do you cling to joy when you’re facing a painful situation?
James goes on to say:
“…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach… blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial…”
Seek Godly Counsel
When I am facing a hard situation usually the last thing I want to do is tell someone else about it; is that just me? I am a slight perfectionist, and I want everything to be perfect, I don’t want to make a mistake that will show that I am not perfect (because it’s definitely not obvious that I’m human). When we admit our struggles, failures, or burdens to safe people that doesn’t heap shame on us, instead that opens the door to experience freedom. What is hidden causes shame, what is brought to light can no longer hold us back. Find someone who you can share your hard season with, someone who can push you towards Christ and fill you up.
This also most importantly includes seeking wisdom from Christ. James says that “God gives wisdom to all – without reproach” (reproach being criticism, reprimand, accusation) – He wants you to seek Him and give you good gifts. Wisdom from Christ to navigate life is a good gift.
Never Go Back
Sometimes the reason we experience a season of pain is because we have allowed unhealthy relationships (friendships, romantic, ect.) to become the loudest voice in our life. Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Boundaries, says:
“Certain relationships and situations repeat toxic and dysfunctional cycles. We leave, but then return to them believing the good things will continue and the painful things won’t reappear. Nevertheless, they continue to not work.”
When I heard this I wanted to just stand up, slow clap and yell “preach it. Amen. Hallelujah”. I am that person, I will see the good things and push away the negative; genuinely believing that they will step into who they can be. If you’re like me, this isn’t a bad thing, in fact it’s super helpful when I get to sit with high school and college students. It’s not helpful, however, when that person is in my inner circle of relationships, because it doesn’t produce a joy in me, instead it starts to drain me (and let’s be real, make me a little crazy).
“If we love each other, we will try our best to influence each other for good, but we must still respect the freedom of the other person to make their own choice.” – Dr. Henry Cloud
See the good in people, call out the good in people, but create boundaries for these people in your life. If it’s a relationship, it could be time to walk out of that (unless you’re married, then maybe it’s time to walk into counseling – see what I did there?), if it’s a friendship, setting up clear boundaries for that relationship is super beneficial. Boundaries are fundamental in creating healthy and life-giving relationships.
None of these are “fun” options in the moment, but to remain in an life-draining relationship will leave you frustrated, stuck, and unhealthy. Boundaries will help you in the long run, and the best part of “never going back” is that we don’t avoid something we know we need to do just because it is going to be painful.
Put It In Perspective
When we face a hard situation, season, or multiple seasons it’s easy to want the answer immediately. I always want to know why God is taking me through pruning, or Why I have to experience deep hurt in my life? Anyone else? I want to know the answer when I am feeling the most pain. However, if that pain is what it takes to realign my vision to Christ, or show me more about the goodness of the Lord, then I don’t want to rush through the pain because I’m uncomfortable.
How do I find joy when I’m in pain?
It’s pretty simple, and super cliché, but absolutely vital to walking out of and through a season of pain and disappointment. Disappointment is a tool that points us to deeper faith in Christ. When we are desperately seeking joy in a hard, lonely season, we must seek Christ. I’m sure this will repeat itself in another post, but I listened to a friend share about a hard season of depression and coming through that and she said
“The antithesis of disappointment is Christ himself”
The antithesis of disappointment is Christ himself. Drop the mic. If God’s character is one thing, it is 100% that one thing. He is good, which means no ounce of him can be bad. He is sovereign over everything, so there is no part of my life that is out of his control. He is merciful, so there is no shame in Christ.
The beginning of walking out of pain into the joy of Christ is to seek Him first. It is to seek him when your heart and emotions aren’t there, knowing that He is a good father and those things will catch up to my actions. Worship is in the waiting and praying for God to deliver me, I don’t sit stagnant waiting, but am active in seeking Him. Nothing is too much for him, doubt, anger, tears, joy, or worship; He wants us to bring those things fully to him.
If you’re experiencing a painful season, I hope that you cling tightly to James’ words: “Count it all joy, my brothers (sisters), when you face trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Let steadfastness have it’s full effect that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing…”.
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