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Contentment and Joy in Hard Times

“I can’t wait until 2020 is over.”

I’ve heard this a lot and imagine you have, too.  I understand the sentiment, and 2020 is truly a year with few parallels.   We have several basic needs that must be met if we are to thrive.  The events of this year have threatened us at the point of all these needs.*

You can find a lot of help with this topic in both of my books that are available on in paper, Kindle, or audio.

“Without Regret”

“Put Stress to Work”

The Needs Everybody Has

Every person has these needs.   As you review them, I think you can relate.

  • Survival physically with essential needs met (food, rest, sleep, avoidance of pain, generally healthy bodily processes).
  • Safety and Security, including safe and secure circumstances, protection, structure, order, boundaries, job security, financial security. Fears and anxieties come to play here.
  • Belonging and being loved – need for friends, to be with family, affectionate relationships, sense of community, and that you belong to it (church, civic clubs, other social gatherings). Avoid loneliness and social anxiety.
  • Respect from others, such as attention, appreciation, and dignity as indicated by positive feedback, compassion, and understanding. Self-respect, including confidence, competence, achievement, independence, and freedom.

rel=”noopener noreferrer”>“Put Stress to Work”

How the Events of 2020 Threaten Your Needs

These needs are each and all threatened by the following events of 2020:

  • The SARS CoV2 pandemic and its physical impact, economic impact, associated isolation, and the disrespect or disregard for others expressed in refusals to take protective measures.
  • Social unrest, riots and looting, injustices revealed, social divisiveness, refusal to hear and understand (not agree with) another’s point of view, and verbal attacks on others because of their points of view.
  • A contentious election, divisive rhetoric, disrespect for individuals and their viewpoints, and many people’s inability to dialog about the issues in a safe, healthy manner.
  • Tremendous change all around with a “new” or “next” normal way of doing things.
  • Not knowing who to trust for the truth or even accurate reporting.

Yes, it’s strange, disorienting, confusing, inconvenient, surprising, and scary.  And next year (or any of the years following) may have its version of similar difficulties.

Irrational and Unwise Pressure

Amid challenges like those of 2020, your brain and emotions will cause you to want and press for a “quick fix”  irrationally.  But I don’t think it’s wise to rush through circumstances.

What’s a Person to Do?

What I did.

At the very beginning of the shelter in place instruction back in March, I determined that I would make the absolute best of the situation, learn everything I could, and serve others as much as possible.

I used all the actions below.  So far, things have gone very well.  Do I have COVID fatigue?  I do.  But I don’t long for bygone days.  I am looking to the future considering my purpose and mission.

What you can do to thrive, no matter what

You can only control or manage yourself.    Whatever the circumstances, this is the one constant.

  • Take time to be in the moment. Don’t rush to the next thing. Be still and reflect.  Use some mindful meditation to clear and nurture your mind.  Pay attention to what God is doing in the moments of life.  Whether small, great, pleasant, or unpleasant, Christian scripture assures us that God is at work for good.  This ultimate good is His purpose of drawing people to Himself and using all things to mold believers into the image of His Son.
  • What is important to you?
  • Renew your purpose in the new situation. What was your purpose before the challenges of this year, and how do you express it now?  If you did not have a clearly stated purpose previously, now’s a good time to clarify it and write it down.
  • Recognize that happiness, contentment, and joy are choices you make. You can more readily choose these things when you realize that despite the circumstances. God is faithful to do what he says he will do – work things together for that ultimate good.  We see this in big events of salvation history, such as the coming of the promised Messiah and the promised fulfillment of the Messiah’s mission.  Both are recorded as good news and, ultimately, joyful experiences.  These events brought gladness and delight to those who experienced them in history because they recognized the events as God fulfilling his promises.
  • As you face every circumstance, ask two questions.
    • What can I learn from this?
    • How else can I look at this?

If you determine to learn, you have created a purpose for any situation you may encounter, however difficult it may be.

  • When you feel the most in need, find a way to serve, and give.
  • See beyond the situation to the new. Hoping that things will “go back to the way they were” or “return to normal” is not reasonable.   The genie is out of the bottle, and the toothpaste is out of the tube – You can’t put it back as it was.  But you can discover a new way forward and keep moving.

Be hopeful in the moment for what God will do in the future.  Hope is not an emotional wishing but a confidence that God is at work and will achieve His glory and our good.

I have determined to live in the moment.  I choose gratefulness and hopefulness and not to allow room for negative or pessimistic thinking.  These practices are disciplines of mind and spirit.  I discipline my mind to be grateful for what God is doing in the moment and hopeful for what he will do in the future. This mindset contributes to a life of joy for me.  It is a spiritual discipline because it directly results from walking in the Spirit, which has joy as fruit. I’m certainly not a perfect practitioner, but I strive in this direction.

Jean-Pierre De Caussade was a French Jesuit priest whose life committed himself to be “abandoned to divine providence” – to what God was doing in the moment.  He said,

To observe the “discipline of living in the present moment” is to accept one’s present situation and find satisfaction and peace in the now. This is distinguished from attitudes of restlessness and dissatisfaction, worry about the future or discouragement and regret about the past. By trusting in God now and allowing the present to be enjoyed, greater happiness and peace is possible.

Please contact me as I may support you in developing these disciplines for yourself.

*From Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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