because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” —James 1:2–4 (NIV)
Give God Your Struggles
We often think of joy as happiness, an emotion we feel when things are good. But can we find joy when life is hard—when we lose a friend, when school is difficult, when our family struggles, when we mess up and have to deal with the consequences? James 1:2–4 sees difficult times as moments that teach us perseverance; but that doesn’t mean they are easy. Yet, when we realize that in these moments we may grow and become more fully ourselves, we can begin to find joy in them. Focus today on one struggle in your life and on how you feel about it. Then lift this struggle to God, asking for help and for God’s grace to persevere and to grow through this hardship. Then give thanks for the ways God works in your life that you might begin to experience joy even in the most difficult times.
Michael Bozmarov [Santa Ana, CA]
Trust that God Is at Work
James 1:2–4 was quoted often in our youth group, but it confused me. I would think, The breakup I’m going through hurts! How can I be joyful about it? Being happy about my suffering seemed impossible. As I grew older, I began to see that joy is different than happiness. Joy is a deep thankfulness for what is good, an appreciation for beauty, an abiding contentment with what you have. Joy sees God’s work in every situation. If you are struggling with pain, loss, or fear, remind yourself that God is working for good in everything we experience—and if that isn’t a reason for joy, I don’t know what is!
Brooke Lamb [Nashville, TN]
Find Strength to Make It Through
I used to think that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10c, NIV) was just a Christian version of “don’t worry, be happy.” But now, as I read more of Nehemiah, I realize that this phrase is revolutionary. Nehemiah and many other Jews had been living in exile. The city of Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed. Those days were difficult and uncertain. But through prayer and action, Nehemiah organized the people to rebuild their city. The work was hard, and they faced opposition; but when they completed their labor, they gathered in joyful celebration. Nehemiah teaches us not to ignore tough times and pretend to be happy but to trust that the joy that comes from God will give us strength to make it through.
Katie Matson-Daley [St. Paul, MN]
DECEMBER 17, 2017
NEXT DAY STRETCH
Make Joy a Lifestyle
Joy is such a simple word. Often overused or misunderstood, it may have lost its meaning. But joy isn’t simply a feeling; it is a way of living. Joy offers strength in the calm and in the storm; it can be a confirmation of God’s will for us. Let joy become your new standard. Let joy be what keeps you going and pressing forward. Let joy be what you share with others—a grocery store clerk, classmates, coworkers, a stranger on the street. Joy is not selfish. It cannot be contained. Let joy be your new lifestyle!
Jennifer Bushnell [Canton, OH]