I've noticed that a few people have mentioned that they absolutely love this week between Christmas and New Year's. And I do love the coziness. The time to slow down after the holiday rush and read a book or watch an old movie, put together puzzles, pop popcorn and sip cider.
So I grabbed my Bible. I've learned that this is the best salve when despondency weighs on the soul. With a mug of tea in one hand, I visited the chapter in Nehemiah where I had left off last time. Again, the Lord faithfully brought to me just what I needed at just the right time.
And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them joy.
That's right. It is God who gives us joy. If we rely on circumstances (as I so often do), then we are sure to be disappointed. But if we acknowledge that God is the source of joy, then we cannot be disappointed.
As I read and wrote and prayed, I asked God to bring me joy. I asked Him to show me that He is still Emmanuel, that He is still with me. I thumbed through the Psalms, landing on my favorite joy passages:
Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy.
Yes, it is only in His presence that I can fully experience joy.
And David's cry, which resonated with my spirit,
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.
Hope. His presence. God with us. God with me. We have it all!
And finally, the linchpin that seems upside-down,
Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
A sacrifice. That means to give thanks . . . even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. Even when it doesn't look like a blessing. Because He is present. He is Emmanuel. And that is where the joy is.
I pulled out my neglected gratitude journal and scratched out a few lines. I had forgotten to give thanks. I had forgotten that my thank you is a hallelujah to Him that in turn brings joy and blessing.
My spirit found peace, and I thanked the Lord for leading me through the valley once again.
Ready to face the day, I recalled a bit of practical advice that gave wings to my sluggish feet. I've read this advice in various forms, and each time it's like a gentle nudge. A bit of motherly advice that keeps me moving when I need that push forward.
Louisa May Alcott said it in Little Women through Marmee: "Hope and keep busy, dear daughter!"
Elisabeth Elliot found a similar course of action to be helpful when facing trials: "Do the next thing."
And a simple little line from the Elsie Dinsmore books, "Find the nearest duty and fulfill it."
Sometimes it helps to just think of one little thing that needs to be done. To find that nearest duty, that next thing, that small task that will keep us busy. I often find that when I've accomplished a chore, it spurs me on to tackle a bit more. And so the day continues and, before I know it, I've marked several things off my list and my spirits are lifted considerably.
And so I took the baby steps that ultimately led me through the day, filling it with a quiet joy that I know only the Lord could give.
* * * * *
If you find yourself in a similar frame of mind today, dear friend, may I encourage you? I know how you feel. I also know that there's a way to rise joyfully beyond the despondency.
1. Seek Him. Ask the Lord to renew a spirit of joy in your heart. It comes from Him! And He is extravagant in His gifts. He longs not only to give you joy, but to give you the fullness of joy!
2. Give thanks. A spirit of gratitude leads to joy. Look at the gifts around you -- thank Him for even the very simplest things if need be. A new day. A new hope. A new joy.
3. Begin small. Don't try to tackle the day. Just do the next thing. Take baby steps. Find the nearest duty and fulfill it. It can be daunting to say, "I'm going to clean the entire house today!" when coming off of an exhausting week. Try instead to give yourself small goals and see if they don't spur you on to do just a little bit more. "Hope and keep busy, dear daughter!"
Blessings on you, my dear friends, as this year comes quietly to a close. May you find the fullness of joy in the Lord's presence, both now and in the year to come.