Holding On To Your Joy During Adversity & Uncertainty
Difficult, trying times reveal far more about us than the good times. This is true for us individually and collectively.
Think about it. What’s the virtue in being joyful when you’re on a roll when everything is clicking for you and going your way, and the world seems like a pretty good place?
With the sudden surge of the Coronavirus, most of us have experienced an unprecedented jolt to our confidence and sense of certainty about the future.
From the dramatic stock market crash to the sudden reality that our kids will unexpectedly be home for the next few weeks or longer, a different type of March Madness has overtaken us.
The Final Four has now officially been cancelled. Major League Baseball has been suspended. The same is true of the NBA as well. Broadway is shut down. Concerts and festivals have been postponed. Disney is closed and so on. And, did I mention our kids will be home for at least the next couple of weeks?
Incidentally, I haven’t even brought up the actual threat to our health. In the midst of these extraordinary disruptions to our sports, business, schooling and socializing, we have to potentially deal with fighting this virus personally or helping our loved ones do so, and quite possibly both of those battles simultaneously.
In tough times, there is a propensity to zero in on the threats, the things that scare us, those conditions that are “out of whack” and yet we forget about our blessings, all that is working in our lives, in our family, in our company and in our country.
This is easy to do, especially if we overindulge in the media avalanche of gloom, doom and negative forecasts produced by so-called experts and talking heads employed to sustain a 24/7 news cycle.
The masses will digest every headline, succumb to the hysteria, give into fear, bathe in hand sanitizer, participate in group think, and unabashedly fight for the last rolls of toilet paper on the shelf. Don’t be like this. It won’t strengthen your immune system, but it will most definitely hijack your joy.
As an encouragement, I wanted to share with you a handful of practical, field tested steps you can take to help preserve your joy, despite the fear and chaos that may now or could soon surround you.
1. Change The Channel
Restrict or otherwise budget your news consumption. Preferably, acquire the information you think you need about the virus via the web where you can visit your favorite source and quickly learn what you need to know without marinating in the negative and repetitive sensationalism.
Turn off any alerts and notifications from news outlets on your smart phone. Pick a time to log in for the latest updates. Consider checking three times a day: morning, noon and before dinner.
Believe me, if something consequential happens, there will be an army of unpaid news junkies who will share the headlines with you almost immediately and free of charge.
And, since you won’t be overindulging in the media, use the bonus time that has been freed up to break from the pack, proactively improve yourself and create self-determined positive headlines in your own life. Think of these positive headlines as your goals.
2. Focus On What You Can Control
While there is so much in this world, and in these unusual circumstances, that we cannot control, there is plenty that falls under our authority. For example, we can control our thought life and consequently our mindset. This is a big deal because virtually everything else we experience in life is a reflection of our frame of mind.
While other people and headlines can temporarily seize our attention, we can choose what we dwell upon. This is really good news because what we fix our minds upon determines how we feel.
We can, of course, also control what and how much we eat. It may not always be easy, convenient or fun, but we can control our diet, and what we put in our bodies either strengthens or weakens our immune system.
For example, sugar suppresses your body’s natural ability to fight disease and makes us extra vulnerable in times like these. Make smart choices. You are in control of what you feed yourself, both physically and mentally.
Since we don’t know how long before normal activities and schedules resume, it’s constructive to think about how to turn the current unforeseen situation into a net gain.
As long as you stay healthy, seek out opportunities to use the upended nature of at least the next few weeks into an advantage for you both on the business side and the personal side.
Assess and rework your goals. Identify projects that have been left undone and bring them to completion. Catch up on some organizing and decluttering around the house or office. Call and check in on your most important relationships and let them know how much you appreciate them.
If the kids are stuck at home, create ways to engage with them in more meaningful ways. Use this time to teach them about adversity, faith, group think, problem solving and, of course, how quickly life can change…from good to bad and then…back again.
You can also choose to kick off each morning with extra positivity, exercise a bit more each day, make sleep a bigger priority, and practice gratitude for the goodness in your life at this very instant.
We are experiencing a moment in time when life feels uncertain. But life is really quite unpredictable most of the time, just not so dramatically and rarely for all of us at once.
These are just a few of the constructive choices that are largely, if not entirely, under your control. What you do with this challenge is up to you.
3. Look To God
Of course, depending on God is the prudent thing to do on any given day. But at times like this, it is absolutely essential. While most of the world is swept up in virus mania, you can maintain your poise by exercising faith in the Creator of the universe.
The best way to do this is through prayer. When we pray, we demonstrate our reliance on God. With fear escalating and the stock market sinking, the seeds of panic are palpable.
It can be unnerving, but it doesn’t have to be. It is here we have to make a decision. We can choose to join in the chaos or we can choose to dwell on the Lord. Keeping our thoughts fixed on God can soothe our anxieties and help us maintain our composure even in the midst of chaos and turbulence. Could there ever be a more valuable use of our time than when we pray?
Circumstances change quickly, but God never changes.
Remind yourself of everything you know to be true about God. God is all-powerful. God is love. God is sovereign. God is always with us. God is never late or early. God is absolute truth. And so on.
Finally, here are a couple of therapeutic verses that are worthy of ongoing meditation:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
Write this on a notecard or make this your screen saver. Repeat it over and over again. Memorize it this weekend.
For a more powerful effect, I encourage you to look up the entire passage. (Psalm 46:1-3)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. II Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
Fear is an ultra powerful emotion, but it can’t defeat FAITH unless you give in to it. You can overcome fear with faith. Affirm that God is with you. Repeat. Then repeat again and again.
Depend on God mentally, emotionally, and verbally. Let your faith come alive in times like these. Set the right example for your family and friends and everyone else you interact with, especially over the next couple of days and weeks.
You can maintain your joy.
If you will limit your consumption of news, focus on what is controllable, and rely on the Lord, you will not only preserve your joy, you will promote the kingdom of God.
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