Be still, and know that I am God.
Wednesdays can be hard for me. Perhaps it’s because the warmth of Sunday has worn off, and I find myself neck-deep in chores, homework, keeping everyone fed, and trying to keep up with my kids’ activities and schedules before the weekend finally comes. It doesn’t help when my husband is out of town, and I’m juggling a new baby and teenagers all at once.
There have been lots of days like that—when the house is a mess, the sink is piled high with dishes, dinner still needs to be made, and everyone needs a piece of Mom. Somehow I get through those days and tackle the next one. But one particular Wednesday, it was too much. Tired and overwhelmed, I sat on the couch and started to cry. “Heavenly Father,” I prayed desperately, “How am I supposed to do everything?”
His answers don’t always come immediately, but that day I heard Him immediately whisper to my heart simply, “You’re not. You’re just supposed to find joy in the journey.”
I sat stunned for just a minute, taking that in. I’m not supposed to be able to do everything. I can’t. But I can choose to be happy while working at it!
I couldn’t believe the relief I felt in that moment! I jumped up, tied on my running shoes, turned on some happy, upbeat music (probably Neil Diamond!), and started washing dishes while I sang at the top of my lungs! Joy came because I no longer felt the pressure of doing everything. Joy came because God answered my prayer. Joy came because I felt His love and understanding. He didn’t expect me to do it all. I was simply supposed to enjoy life while doing the best I could. And maybe my best wasn’t much, but that was okay too—as long as joy was involved.
So now we have to beg the question: How do we keep finding joy? There are, after all, only so many times you can play “Sweet Caroline” and sing at the top of your lungs (and only so much your family can endure)! Then what? How can we feel the peace and joy that Christ offers when a mountain of responsibility is looming before us?
I have learned slowly, and sometimes painfully, four ways to keep finding joy:
Let Go of Perfectionism
I have learned that perfectionism is not a good thing. Perfectionism is the opposite of being Christlike. It’s me trying to do everything perfectly by myself. Perfectionism leaves no room for a Savior because I’m trying with all my might to be perfect on my own—it doesn’t matter what His plan is for me (nor for those around me). Maybe instead of having a spotless, shining house, He needs me to go visit my neighbor. Maybe instead of serving up the perfect dinner I had in mind, He needs me to simplify and go play with my child. Maybe instead of running five miles today, He needs me to go walking with a friend. It’s great to have goals, but then be open to His inspiration and be willing to set my plans aside to do His will.
I have found that even on the hardest, dreariest day, if I start thinking of things I’m grateful for, a little sunshine comes through to my heart. I was taught to pray by first thanking God before asking Him for things. I used to think that was to show respect and appreciation to God, which, perhaps it is to some extent. But one day I knelt in prayer, and I wanted to tell God how hard and horrible everything was. I was gently reminded to first give thanks. I really had to pause for a bit and think. But as I thought about it and began thanking God for blessings, I realized gratitude is for ME, not for Him! He wants us to thank Him to help us feel happy and recognize blessings because then joy can enter in!
Take Time to be Still
The 46th Psalm says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Meditate, pray, read scripture, take a peaceful walk, sit and breathe deeply, look out the window, and smile at something beautiful. Taking time to connect with God always makes my day better. Connecting with God each day by being still helps me to learn His will. And doing His will always brings joy. Connecting to God helps me to simply feel His love. Nothing brings more joy than feeling God’s love. He wants us to feel it. All we have to do is be still and notice, even ask to feel His love in those still moments. See what happens.
Enjoy the here and now. We don’t have anything but now. If now is spent worrying about tomorrow or next week or next year, we miss so many joyful little moments—so many gifts. I think when we get to heaven and reflect on our lives, there will be so many beautiful moments, or gifts, that we will realize we completely missed because we were distracted by social media, or were stressed out or worried, or frantically trying to get things done. By being present, we notice God’s presents and His presence.
Joy takes practice, and practice is what God asks of us. The dishes may be sky high, maybe we don’t know how we will make next month’s rent or mortgage, we may be in pain, maybe there is severe family dysfunction, maybe we experience mental illness, but God has commanded us to have joy in the journey, so He will provide a way. Perhaps only He knows how to help us find joy, so when we look for Him, He will be there with answers and with joy.