Two teen boys climbing up boulders and scoping out the view beyond
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This picture brings me great joy. A few weeks ago, I insisted my two boy-men go walk/hiking with me. Getting our teen boys outside rarely meets with whoops of excitement.

When we arrived, my two guys trudged ahead on a dirt trail. There must have been magic in the air that day because, all of a sudden, they were running. With smiles on their faces. 

And the coup de grace came when they discovered large boulders to explore and to test their bravery.

Eighteen months ago, each of our sons were dealt life-altering events. 

A teen boy sitting on the edge of a rocky overhang
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As a family, we walked through some pretty dark places. I found myself stressed and weary as I slogged from one task to the next, as new information piled onto my shoulders. I questioned if we’d ever get beyond that painful season. 

This pandemic casts a pall over everything. Everything people anticipated has been crossed off the calendar. And if that wasn’t hard enough, real-life keeps happening. Loved ones get sick and die. Children of all ages make choices that break hearts. There are diagnoses. Isolation. 

When life’s falling apart around us, can we really know joy? There’s a lot of “real-life hard” going on right now. We can’t diminish the real pain and try to live in a fake “Hakuna Matata” world.

A view of a landscape with trees, bushes and rocks beneath a blue sky and soft clouds
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What does joy look like in the painful, uncertain seasons of life? 

Sometimes joy is less a bold declaration and more a quiet resolution. We all face times of sorrow, of heartbreak, of being brought to the end of ourselves and into a place where every expectation has been dashed.

But this: 

Meme with the words: "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth in weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." ~Psalm 126:6-7 on a backdrop of wheat growing in a field.
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We will sow in our sorrowing times. And if we sow well, we will return with songs of joy.

My friend, Jamie Clark, says, “Trials produce grief in us which seems contradictory to joy. Yet, joy comes through giving our grief to Him [God]. Joy comes out of the deep, intimate well of a relationship with Him, not the circumstances surrounding us.”

Another friend, Janette Cheney, says, “Joy is a position of my heart as I trust in who God says He is.”

Two teen boys running up a dirt path—tells part of the story about joy
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How do we cultivate joy in the difficult seasons? Here are few thoughts:

1. Intentionally look for God’s fingerprints in our days. A beautiful sunrise, a surprise note, someone letting us in front of them at the grocery store . . . We’ll see them if we look.

2. Look for a Bible verse or passage that will point your heart and thoughts toward God. And meditate on it often.

3. Choose gratitude. Each day, write down three things—big or small—somewhere, and put it where you’ll see it and remember we’re not in this alone.

4. Remember who our Father is. In the hard seasons when He seems silent, He’s with us, working in the places we can’t see. 

A wooden cross with mountains as the backdrop—a reminder that Jesus is where we need to focus in difficult times
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5. Choose to focus on uplifting things, not on the news or the negative.

6. Find worship songs that speak to our hearts and listen to them. Often.

7. Remember in eighteen months things will look different. Chances are good we’ll have navigated through this current hard time. And we’ll look back to see the growth of the seeds sown in our hearts and in the lives of those around us. 

Grasses reflecting early morning sunlight—peaceful and joyful in the feel of the photo
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In our own past eighteen months, we’ve walked through testing, therapies, and have been stretched through required changes in how we do life. But, our boys have come through their trials and are adapting. We can laugh, argue, love freely. Everything isn’t perfect, but life is so much better, and we thank God for walking with us through our trials. 

When I look back to where I was eighteen months ago, I see the work God did and His faithfulness in always being by my side. This, friends, brings joy.

What about you? Where are you finding joy right now? What helps you when difficulty upon difficulty is piled upon you?

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I’m linking up with #TellHisStory and Anita Ojeda

*****Life can be hard. Do you ever need a little encouragement on this journey? I’d love to walk with you.I’m excited to share a 28-day devotional ebook with my newsletter subscribers. Join the journey by clicking the image to receive this gift and uplifting thoughts monthly.*****

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