By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
A couple of years ago, I went through a season of what I would consider a “dark night of the soul.” As I struggled with my anxiety disorder, personal tensions, work deadlines, and financial issues all mounted until they became an unbearable weight. It felt like my life was literally crumbling around me. It was a rock bottom moment for me. During that time, smiling was not something that came naturally. Since childhood, I've always been a happy kid. I smiled often and heard many people comment that my smile lit up the room. But during that difficult time years ago, my smile got buried under a fountain of tears. However, God in his faithfulness showed up and turned my life around in many ways, I slowly began to heal and come back to the happy, smiling person I am today.
More Divided Than Ever
Many of us are going through so many difficulties in today's world. Job loss, marriage issues, political division, etc. The world feels more uncertain than ever before. It is tempting for us to want to hide behind a layer of fear and choose joy and the hope that God has promised us through his Word. After what felt like a long, difficult season, I began to realize something: Joy is a choice. I could choose to wallow in my circumstances, or I could choose joy: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). As I reflect on this difficult time in my life, I don't know how I would have done it without God's presence and grace in my life.
Here are five reasons why I choose to demonstrate joy through a smile today:
1. I’m Never Alone
During that difficult season, it felt like I was all alone. I had no one in my life who was there to support me. Although my local church body showered me with cards, gifts, and flowers, no one could really be there to support me because they didn't know exactly what I was going through. In a particular moment when my anxiety was bad, I cried out to God and asked him what I could do. I sensed he was making himself known to me from his presence. Although that was a silent time when I wasn’t hearing anything definitive from the Lord, I knew I wasn't alone. Scripture promises we are never alone in this life. God is with us. He chose us. He is for us. He does everything for our good. Even in moments when it is the darkest, and I can't see more than what's in front of me, I trust that God is making a way and moving forward in my development.
2. Even When I’m Struggling, Someone Has It Worse
Even when every area of my life is in turmoil, someone is always going through something worse than me. As I scroll through my social media feed, I read the posts of people whose children are in the hospital, struggling with major health crises, and people losing their jobs. While there's no guarantee that it won't happen to me, I must keep the perspective that what I'm going through right now is not the worst thing in the world. For example, I'm facing a life transition as I send my child off to college for the first time. Although I'm grieving the loss of my son leaving his childhood home, I can choose to smile in that he is becoming an adult and wanting to serve the Lord. He is attending a Christian college and is excited to make good, Christian friends and build a solid biblical foundation for his life. I could choose to wallow in the tears and believe this is the worst thing, or I can choose to smile, knowing that God has a perfect plan for him. I have done my job as a parent in creating an independent, faith-filled child who wants to continue that faith into adulthood.
3. I Choose Gratitude
I'm always shocked when I read the account of Jesus and his Last Supper. In the moments before his crucifixion, he chose to spend the last moments of his life eating, drinking, and enjoying the fellowship of his brothers he now considered friends. He could have chosen to live in sorrow knowing that his time on earth was almost done. But instead, he chose gratitude, giving thanks to God for his daily provision and for the provision of his friends that would one day take on the tasks of driving out demons, healing the sick, and preaching the gospel in his absence. Gratitude is the antithesis of worry and fear. It is also the opposite of anger and discontentment. When I choose to change my attitude from one of the things I've lost and focus on the things I have, I replace an angry heart with a joyful one. What naturally results from a joyful heart is a smile.
4. God Is Faithful
Even when I struggle with sin, or fail to represent Jesus well on this earth, I know God is still faithful. He is faithful to provide for my every need and his death on the cross is sufficient to cover over all my sin and shame. This simple truth that I've known for many years helps in dark times because instead of spending long hours beating myself up over my mistakes and sins, I can spend a reasonable amount of time confessing and repenting and then replacing my sorrow with joy. I can smile knowing that God will still be faithful to me even in the moments when I have not demonstrated faithfulness to him.
5. I Have Family
Both my immediate family and in-laws live a couple of hours from me. Therefore, I don't get a chance to see them as much as I would like. But I also have a church family that I belong to in my town. As the pastor's wife, my relationship with my church family is different than other relationships. I must care for members of the church and serve them using my gifts to benefit the church body. But in the above-mentioned difficult season, my local church body surrounded me with support and love when I needed them the most. Knowing that I have family who may not be directly related to me through a physical genealogy, I've been gifted with brothers and sisters in Christ who are related to me through a spiritual heritage. I can call my brothers and sisters in Christ for any need at any time. This helps me feel a sense of belonging and value to others. When my core needs for belonging and value are met, I can live each day with a smile, knowing that I have a family who loves me and wants what’s best for me.
Although you may feel like you don't have many reasons to smile, the above promises apply to you as much as they apply to me. Whether you have a vibrant relationship with the Lord or are struggling to hear his voice, the above promises are true regardless of what you're feeling. Just as we can choose joy and contentment, you can also choose how to demonstrate those attributes. Choose to put on a smile today and see how you change other people's lives as you go throughout your day.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Ridofranz
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.
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