Consider it Pure Joy — A Post About Trials and also My Self Care Routine
Last night I found myself feeling completely overwhelmed. With motherhood. With striving to keep the house clean. With not feeling truly rested, like ever. With the lack of freedom for creativity in my life. It was a culmination of various things, I think. It’s never just one thing. And it rarely happens overnight.
So there I sat in bed. Wanting to cry. And then actually crying. And then praying and asking — no, telling — God that I needed His help. “I’ve tried everything. I’ve been trying — no, striving — for years. And I still feel like I’m coming short. I still feel like a failure.”
I’m talking of course about playing the game catch-up. You know the one. The game you play with the laundry, your Bible, your email inbox, the dishes.
I’m never caught up. No matter how hard I try, I’m always behind. And I’m starting to realize that there’s another word for this:
Obviously an impossible goal. And I know this, yet I strive. And because I can’t achieve perfection. I feel deeply ashamed. I feel like a failure. For years, I’ve been striving toward perfection, only to be let down again and again. For years, I’ve placed my identity in various things. My home. My weight. My skin. My job, or lack thereof. Relationships. Relationship status. The words I share on this blog. The list goes on. I think we all do this in various ways. We place our identity in things other than Christ. And then He reminds us who we are again, again, again. And it was last night that I realized, this really isn’t about the house not staying clean. This really isn’t about me feeling behind in literally everything. This is a heart issue. And then I felt it. It clicked and I understood.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
I feel like I’m the type of person who knows what to do when big tragedy hits. I go to my God and I cry out in the darkness because He is the only thing that makes sense to me. But the little, day-to-day, slowly-wear-you-down-over-time trials? I can handle those on my own. Or so I thought.
But the thing is, I can’t. I need Him daily. Minutely, if I’m honest. And last night it hit me all over again. Like a wave of grace, God showed me where I had been placing my identity. And He reminded me I’ll be unsatisfied for the rest of my life unless I remember my value comes from Christ. Shame doesn’t get to live in my heart anymore. So why do I keep inviting him over for dinner?
I think Satan probably doesn’t want me or any one of you to hear this message. Because it challenges the status quo. But it’s right there in plain sight for anyone to read: “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”
I looked up the greek word for “pure joy” and found the word chairó which literally means to experience God’s favor and to be conscious of His grace. Another commentary I read defined the term as calm delight.
Isn’t that so interesting and confusing? That God would prompt us to consider it favor, grace, and calm delight whenever we face trials? I’m still trying to learn more about what this means, but I think God has definitely given me a heart for coming to understand what trials are capable of. I wrote a lot about this when I experienced a miscarriage in 2016, and one thing I’ll never forget are the words I said to my husband as we were leaving the hospital with the knowledge that there was potentially a baby without life inside my stomach. I remember looking at him just minutes after pulling away from the hospital and saying “This is an honor.” It was an honor for so many reasons. I was now able to have a fellowship with a whole community of women who had gone through the same thing. And I was able to suffer which is always an honor because it knits us closer with Jesus who suffered more than we can imagine to save us.
And in those following days and weeks and months as I mourned, I experienced a closeness with God that I won’t ever forget. His presence alone in that season made everything else pale in comparison. I experienced the favor of God. A kind of calm delight in his presence. What this doesn’t mean is that everything was blissful. It was hard and the deep sadness made me want to sleep the days away. But yet, I experienced the favor of God. I can’t describe it well because it was otherwordly and it’s hard to put it into words. But I believe God trained me by it and I have experienced a harvest of peace and righteousness because of it.
Back to last night. My overwhelm felt like it was capsizing me and when I remembered that even this seemingly small thing was a trial, I was instantly relieved. Because my heart suddenly knew why God was allowing things to get this hard for me. He doesn’t want me to continue down this path of seeking and striving for perfection. He wants more. He wants something better. He wants my identity to remain unswervingly in Him alone. So He disrupted things and brought me to my knees and for that I’m eternally grateful. I can experience that joy James talks about because I know it’s for my good. Because the best is yet to come, always.
So what am I going to do about it? A few things. But certainly no striving. My husband and I came up with a game plan to help with the overwhelm in healthy ways, a self-care list if you will. I used to think self-care was all bubble baths and face masks. But I’m starting to realize, it’s so much more than that. And so for me, self-care looks like:
1. Being outside daily (because Vitamin D is my lifeblood)
2. Some form of exercise daily (even if it’s just taking the dog and Remi on a long walk)
3. One day a week where someone babysits Remi and actually takes him on an outing so I can catch up on housework and laundry.
4. Weekly creative hour (that’s what I’m doing currently by writing this blog. I found that I had abandoned all my hobbies and creative endeavors because I was either mentally overwhelmed by all I had to do around the house or too mentally exhausted to do anything except nap or scroll through social media)
5. Two pages of the Bible every single day (been doing this and going to continue doing it because it’s been amazing and the only way I’ve stayed consistent about daily bible reading — I’m a person who loves the idea of routines and habits and rhythms but also kind of sucks maintaining consistency and discipline and this has been incredible for me)
6. Eat breakfast (no more skipping meals and then later wondering why I’m so tired.. haha)
Do you find yourself striving in certain areas over and over? Have you ever experienced joy in a trial or after a trial? What would you have on your own self-care list if you had one?