How can we cultivate joy in life’s discouraging seasons? Discouraging seasons take all shapes and forms: stress on the home-front or job-front, relationship struggles, health scares, global pandemics, grief, and so much more. Learn how to cultivate joy with these powerful tips by my writer friend Stacey Pardoe.
It had been the longest winter of my life – the winter of counting down the weeks, the days, and the hours until my health returned. I spent it mostly staring at the dead landscape out the sliding glass door – beige earth folded under ribbons of grey sky that felt dismal and bleak. I’d been trying to cultivate joy by looking to the future, but the discouragement of my illness was like a black cloud blurring my view.
You might not be stuck on the couch with a long stretch of illness, but I imagine you have your own brand of discouragement in some area of life.
Discouraging seasons take all shapes and forms: stress on the home-front or job-front, relationship struggles, health scares, global pandemics, grief, and so much more.
We were just beginning to see glimpses of my return to health when we made the drive north at the end of that long winter. I was still functioning at less than fifty-percent of my usual vitality. There would be more days of struggling to simply put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.
I was in the thick of sleepless nights, missing out on family events, and longing for the life I once knew. But something transformative happened when I scraped myself off the couch and made the trip to the woods.
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The Secret to Help You Cultivate Joy in Life’s Trials
The change came as we careened around mountainsides and caught glimpses of vibrant green splashed against the dismal hillsides. It looked like the Master Painter had taken his brush and spattered lime dabs over a charcoal landscape – splashes of joy, splashes to offer a foretaste of the abundance coming.
It was our first visit to those hills since before the trial started many months earlier. When we last visited the hills, they were still vibrant jade with late summer’s canopy. To return on the other side of winter felt like a gentle reminder that redemption is always rising. We cultivate joy when we remember that all suffering will one day end.
And even though we weren’t through our trial just yet, the dabs of lime-green against grey felt like an invitation to celebrate where we’d been and where we were going: We’d been through the dark months in the valley, and we were headed toward the hope of restoration.We cultivate joy when we remember that all suffering will one day end. #suffering #hope #encouragement @StaceyPardoe Click To Tweet
Cultivate Joy by Giving Thanks for the Process
Our journey to the hills offered a gentle reminder to my weary soul: If you want to cultivate joy in the valleys of your life, pause to give thanks that even if you’re not yet where you want to be, you’re not where you once were.
Thank God that even though your circumstances aren’t what you would choose, each step forward is one step closer to the other side of the valley. God is shaping your soul in the dark place of suffering, and if you will yield yourself to the process, you will emerge looking more like your Savior.God is shaping your soul in the dark place of suffering, and if you yield yourself to the process, you will emerge looking more like your Savior. #spiritualgrowth #transformation #ChristianLiving @StaceyPardoe Click To Tweet
Deepen Your Joy by Counting the Small Steps
It’s easy to look for leaps and bounds – to measure only giant steps of progress. However, if we want to cultivate joy in life’s most discouraging seasons, we will find encouragement when we count the small steps.
Let today be the day to acknowledge that although the grief is still heavy, each day is one day closer to healing and wholeness. While some wholeness doesn’t come this side of heaven, there is a promise that one day, every tear will be wiped away: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Our family’s trip to the hills felt like a very small step. I was not yet healthy and whole. But I was enduring. I was staying in the battle. I was determined to fight for joy and make it through the darkness. Make up your mind to keep stepping through the struggle – to keep doing the next thing set before you – and you will emerge looking more like Jesus.If we want to cultivate joy in life's most discouraging seasons, we will find encouragement when we count the small steps. #encouragement #stepbystep #spiritualgrowth @StaceyPardoe Click To Tweet
Let Celebration Spark the Joy You Crave
If the idea of celebration in your season feels just a little too trite, a little too poly-anna-ish, then this is all the more reason why today is the day to step out of the pit and lift your arms in gratitude. Today is the day to beat back the darkness by finding a reason to celebrate.
Maybe it’s the day to set aside a few hours for sheer fun. Take a long hike. Fly a kite. Have a picnic. Sit along a shoreline, or sit by a window if this is the very best you can do. Look to the sky, and join with the heavens in declaring the work of God’s hands.
Life might not be easy, but if you can find a single reason to celebrate, you will cultivate the joy you crave.Life might not be easy, but if you can find a single reason to celebrate, you will cultivate the joy you crave. #encouragement #joy #gratitude @StaceyPardoe Click To Tweet
And as I climbed from the car and coaxed my still-weary body down the dirt roads of the green-splashed hills, I couldn’t say it was without effort. I couldn’t honestly say that I felt better, that the hard parts didn’t still sting, or that I could breathe freely; but one thing I did notice – there was joy springing up with the trillium breaking through the earth. And sometimes, just a sprout of joy is encouragement enough.
Meet Stacey Pardoe
Stacey is a lover of the woods, a passionate and imperfect follower of Christ, the mother of three blue-eyed children, the wife of Darrell, and much more. She writes words about her walk of faith in the in-between moments, and she mentors and teaches the Bible to younger women. Stacey writes about encountering God in the ordinary at www.staceypardoe.com. She is featured on Desiring God, (In)Courage, Proverbs 31 Woman, Relevant Magazine and others.
Are you in a discouraging season? Do you practice some of these ways to cultivate joy? If this article has encouraged you, I would be happy if you comment and share it on social media. Thanks!
Is it time to get the fire back in your walk with God? If so, Stacey offers her 10-day devotional, Get the Fire Back in Your Faith as a free gift to you. This devotional offers dozens of practical ways to connect with God in both your quiet moments and your busy everyday moments of life. Click here, and I will send this devotional directly to your email inbox.