“Joy is a decision, a really brave one, about how you are going to respond to life.”
~ Wess Stafford
New Year’s resolutions hold very little substance for me, however I always seem to find myself joining the hoards of people making them. As I was thinking about last year and the things I made progress in, and mostly the things I fell short in I found myself thinking that grace seemed to be the theme of 2017.
Let me explain.
Last year was definitely the most difficult one of my life, I found myself stressed by the weight of trying to decide on my future, difficult relationships, and new changes in jobs and education. There were very few mornings when I didn’t wake up and immediately feel guilt or anxiety over something that I had been thinking about. The tendency to overthink and indulge in emotions grew to an unhealthy level and I found myself drowning as a consequence.
Guilt is something that I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember, and even now I often wake up in the morning already wrestling with the feelings of shame and sometimes disgust. Most of the time, I would ignore it and try to think about something else, however it always seemed to be there. Now, let me clarify. I haven’t murdered anyone. I’m not running around at night, vandalizing homes or hanging out with boys of ill repute. That said, I would feel guilty for basically everything else. For not having my devotions, for being deceitful or lying about something, for things I had done years ago, but mostly for feeling like I had somehow disappointed my parents or family. I found myself exhausted by my self-imposed shame, but along with that shame came the constant feeling of anxiety. Anxiety is not something that I’ve always dealt with, but instead has been growing in force in recent years, and a lot of that anxiety spawned out of the guilt I previously mentioned.
I remember a lot of nights trying to get assignments done, but instead finding myself crying about some shame or worry I couldn’t seem to shake. I let myself wallow in a lot of unnecessary emotions, and then felt guilty because I knew that I shouldn’t. These feelings would be followed by anxiety because I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. I found myself in that highly charged emotional situation often, and it frustrated me greatly. I came to a breaking point sometime last spring, I couldn’t handle the freaking guilt and anxiety anymore.
Guilt seems to be a trend in this homeschooled, conservative-Christian community, and for what reason I’m not sure. I suppose that with any tightly knit community there will be a greater pressure to make sure that you’re on the straight and narrow, however I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think a large part of why I was struggling so much was because for my whole life when I had done something bad or something that went against Scripture I would need to go to my parents and confess that. However, now I was in a different situation. It was time that I started to deal with those things myself. It’s a, for lack of a better word, awkward time of transition. That transition being that I had to change from a moral code dependent on my parents and their rules, to one dependent on my personal beliefs about the Scriptures. Obviously because I’m still living at home, I need to adhere to whatever rules my parents give me, but it’s time for me to decide where I draw the line between right and wrong. Not that I’ve been a will-less waif my whole life, but knowing where I drew that line wasn’t as needed when I was a kid.
That breaking point that I previously mentioned was one that I arrived at gradually. It was obvious that I needed to make a change, so I slowly came to a couple realizations:
- The first of those realizations was that shame and anxiety are not given by God, rather they are agents used to eat away at joy and contentment. (Romans 8:21; Luke 12:22; Phil. 4:6)
- Second, it should be a practice of all Christians, including myself, to pull from the freakin’ ever-flowing avalanche of God’s grace, and pour that upon yourself when you become filled with feelings and ideas that are not of God, like shame and anxiety.
Coming to those two realizations lifted a great deal of the burden from me, and placed it on the only Person who could possibly carry it. Grace is not an invitation to remove all responsibility for your actions, but rather a source of forgiveness and peace when you repent of the actions that are not of Christ.
Ok. Since that horse has been beat to death, let me tell you what my resolution for this year is…
After wading through the mire of last year’s emotions, I felt devoid of a crucial characteristic of Christians:
For the purpose of understanding it for myself, I feel as though I should define what I mean as Joy.
Joy: The purposeful striving to rid oneself of shame and anxiety, and replace those feelings with contentment, hope, and faithfulness. To be the tangible example of God’s grace and glory.
Joy is literally my middle name, yet I rarely find myself filled with it. Starting this year I want to strive to be more joyful, to make the conscious decision to respond with joy, and to be a obvious example of how God can work in the lives of anyone.
I don’t appreciate the trend among the culture today of letting yourself feel what you feel and following your heart. Frankly, I think it’s a bunch of bullcrap (sorry mom). Jeremiah 17:9 says that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick,” so why are we trying to follow it…?
Wallowing in your own feelings, whatever they may be, rids yourself of Joy and places your own desires at the forefront of your mind, and we’ve been called to do neither of those things.
I hope I haven’t gone down the melodramatic (possibly passive aggressive) teen girl blogger trend, and if I have, well…..oops. 😀 I do appreciate your taking the time to read this emotional rollercoaster, and I hope that God can transform my lack of humility and longwinded ramblings to something that gives Him glory.
So here’s to a year of purposeful joy, and acceptance of grace.