“I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles.”2 Corinthians 7:4 MSG
The unprecedented, unpredictable, and unrelenting global invasion of COVID 19 results in layers of suffering. The constant pronouncement of lives lost, business closures, schools going virtual, and family separations caused by this virus produce tangible, profound grief and Loss. Loss begins to define and shape our reality.
Suffering of Loss
Experiencing the suffering of Loss can leave us feeling depressed, anxious, impatient, and overreactive. As it seeps into our hearts and minds, we can cope by becoming self-focused, unkind, or numbed out. Is it possible to live in this Covid world and not let the Losses define you?
Since July 1 the Bennetts, as reported on NBC news, suffered the loss of having a newborn in the PICU during the restrictions of Covid. They have been an example of resilience and joy in suffering. By refusing to not be stuck in discouragement, bitterness, and isolation they made another choice. They looked beyond themselves and orchestrated an event of giving which became a joyous outpouring of donations giving other PICU families support. The Bennets demonstrated both gratitude, generosity, and joy in reaching out.
How can we foster a positive mindset in a time of suffering? How can we make that joy adjustment?
Joy is a Choice
Our brains will naturally focus on the negative. A negative bias is the default setting of our brains. A bias is an unfair, distorted one-sided view of reality. In contrast, an open mind accepts both the reality of losses and appreciates the possibility of a positive reality. The question then is how does one choose to be aware of both realities at the same time?
First, it is important to NOTICE, to be aware, acknowledge the losses, and process how they impact our lives. Affirm the natural feelings of frustration, despair, hopelessness, and despair. Do not waste energy stuffing and numbing. To write our feelings down helps our brain to download and process, normalizing our grief. We need to give ourselves permission to grieve! It is natural to have a feeling of grief when losses occur, and noticing your feelings without judgment is essential to opening ourselves up to gratitude.
Second, we must be intentional about slowing down, to be present in the moment. This decision allows us to have more clarity regarding the goodness that is present in our world. Notice the beauty of creation and the kind actions of friends. Appreciate the helpfulness of strangers- such as health care workers and other essential people- and acknowledge our own strengths.
Third, THANK outside the box. Write down what we are thankful for will improve our focus on the positive aspects of our life. Shifting our focus to acknowledge the positive moments can turn suffering into renewal and growth. For example, while the pandemic has brought the worse, highlighting uncertainty, it also reveals our inner strength and God’s provision. The world may be out of control, but we can control our responses. Studies have shown that trials and suffering can actually refine and deepen gratefulness because we choose not to take things for granted. Things like our shelter, health, love of family, and friends. Gratitude leads us to more joy. The more grateful we become, the more joy is connected to our reality.
Fourth, celebrate the beauty of life. Celebrate by honoring traditions as well as creating new traditions. There are 4 times as many outside lights on my neighbor’s homes this Christmas than last year! My neighbors are celebrating our neighborhood and the season in the midst of this dark winter. There are more zoom reunions, cards, texts, and phone calls. Suffering can remind us of what is life-giving. What can we still do, even in a pandemic! Celebrate those little things we enjoy like a shared meal, building gingerbread houses, lighting candles, playing games, walking out of doors, Christmas music, and lights. Celebrate the light of life!
Joy of God’s Love
It is a staggering wonder how the creator of the universe lavishes us, mere humans, the created, with love. He pursues, protects, and provides. He is a forgiving Father. God gives His grace to strengthen, renew, and restore us into His presence for eternity. Faith in this love produces a joy that touches every part of our life and the world around us. Here are 6 scriptures that point to the wondrous joy that flows from a life lived with God.
- “Blessed are you when people hate you…Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” Luke 6:22-23
- “The fruit of the Spirit is ….joy” Galatians 5:22
- “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” Romans 14:17
- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
- “Rejoice in the Lord always…” Philippians 4:4
- “We rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character hope.” Romans 5:3-4
God’s love is stronger than the dark chaos of pain.
His love is unconditional, unending, and unfailing.
God’s love is the unshakable source of our joy.
Our darkness in the suffering can be ignited with the light of joy from His unmistakable love. Our grateful eyes will see His light.
We need to remind each other that the cup of sorrow is also the cup of joy, that precisely what causes us sadness can become the fertile ground for gladness. Indeed, we need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it.quote from You are the Beloved by Henri Nouwen