January is the month of new beginnings. But it is also the month where many people feel at their lowest. In the northern hemisphere the weather is usually pretty poor, the nights are long and spring and summer seem a long way off.
There are seasonal reasons why people struggle in January. But most people also have some specific challenges in their life that add immensely to the struggle. Long term health and money worries are debilitating. Relationship problems or ongoing bereavement are so hard to live with. Yet in the midst of all of this Christians are encouraged to be joyful!
How can a person be joyful when there is so much pain in their own life and so many challenge is all around?
Being joyful does not mean that you do not also feel pain. Christians are not called to be joyful by ignoring the pain and the challenges all around us. It is possible to weep at the pain yet also have joy in our lives
Joy is not based on current circumstances and life being good. Joy is based on God being good even if our life isn’t great at the moment.
Being joyful when things are not great does not seem to make sense. And those outside of the faith will often be confused by joyful Christians. Yet choosing to be joyful whatever the circumstances is what gives Christians strength to endure.
So how can we be joyful when life is so tough?
It’s a decision and an attitude. As a Christian you can choose every day to rejoice in the good that is in your life. As a Christian you can choose to focus more on the goodness and kindness of God then you do on what is not right in your life. Christians are able to rejoice because they know that despite their current circumstances God is still good, he loves them, wants to help them and has planned and prepared a good future for them. Choosing to rejoice when life is tough is a way of showing God and showing others that you are choosing to trust that God has sings in control and will one day make everything right when heaven comes to earth.
Rejoicing may not always look like happy smiling faces but it does always involve trust and a secure hope God is still God and things will be ok in the end.
Check out St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians in the Bible where despite being in prison and knowing much suffering his letter is packed full of rejoicing and celebration and he calls the suffering church to also rejoice.