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Learning to Remain Joyful When Life Doesn't Go As Planned

Life is an unpredictable journey, often marked by a series of ups and downs. As a believer, you might find yourself wondering why things go awry even when you're walking in obedience to God. It's a perplexing situation, but it's also a profound opportunity to deepen your faith and discover a joy that transcends circumstances.

You Have Permission to Feel

In understanding the complexity of life's journey, especially as a person of faith, the acknowledgment of our emotional responses is crucial. When things don't unfold as we hope or plan, it's completely natural and acceptable to experience a spectrum of emotions, including disappointment, anger, and grief.

This emotional response is a fundamental aspect of our human design, crafted by God. He didn't create us as stoic beings, unmoved to the highs and lows of life. Instead, He made us with the capacity to feel deeply, which is a significant part of our experience on earth. These emotions are not just a byproduct of our humanity; they are a reflection of the very heart of God, who experiences and expresses emotions.

The Bible provides numerous examples of this emotional depth, perhaps none more powerful than Jesus weeping at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35). This moment is profoundly significant for several reasons. It shows Jesus experiencing and expressing deep sorrow, even though He knew He was about to perform a miracle and raise Lazarus from the dead. His tears were not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith; they were an expression of genuine human emotion, reflecting His compassion and empathy for the suffering of others.

This biblical account serves as a powerful reminder that it is okay to express our emotions, even in the midst of faith. It's important to allow ourselves to feel fully and to process these emotions in a healthy way. This might involve crying, talking with a trusted friend or counselor, journaling, or praying. By acknowledging and expressing our emotions, we are not displaying a lack of faith, but rather, we are being true to the way God created us.

Furthermore, experiencing and acknowledging these emotions can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationship with God. It can open up a more authentic prayer life where we bring our true selves before God, not just the parts we think are "acceptable" or "faithful." It allows us to lay our burdens down before Him, trusting that He understands, cares, and is with us in every circumstance.

In essence, feeling disappointed, angry, or grief-stricken is not just a natural response to the trials of life; it's a necessary part of our journey towards spiritual maturity and deeper faith. It's in these moments of emotional honesty that we often find the most profound growth, comfort, and assurance of God's presence and love in our lives.

Sharing with Safe People

Finding solace in sharing your disappointments with safe people is an essential aspect of navigating life's challenges, especially when you're feeling overwhelmed by circumstances that don't align with your expectations or desires. Safe people in this context are those individuals in your life who have proven themselves to be trustworthy, understanding, and compassionate. They could be close friends, family members, mentors, or members of your faith community who have a history of listening without judgment and offering wise counsel.

When you open up to these individuals, it does more than just provide a vent for your emotions. It creates a space for mutual understanding and deep connection. As you articulate your feelings and experiences, you're not only unburdening your heart but also clarifying your thoughts. It's often through the process of speaking out loud that you gain new insights into your situation and your reactions to it.

Moreover, these safe people can become invaluable sources of support. They can offer perspectives that you might not have considered, providing wisdom that comes from their own experiences and understanding. Their encouragement can be a lifeline during times when you feel like giving up, reminding you of your strength and resilience. Sometimes, just knowing that someone else understands and cares can be incredibly comforting.

Sharing with others also allows you to receive prayer and spiritual support, which can be particularly uplifting for a believer. These individuals can pray with and for you, bringing your concerns to God and asking for His guidance and peace in your life. This spiritual component can be a powerful means of finding peace and comfort, even in the midst of turmoil.

It's important to remember that sharing your heart is a two-way street. Just as you benefit from the support of others, they too might find encouragement and a sense of purpose in being able to help and support you. This reciprocal relationship fosters a sense of community and belonging, which is essential in navigating life's ups and downs.

By sharing your disappointments with safe people, you're not just offloading your troubles; you're engaging in a meaningful exchange that nurtures your emotional well-being, fosters deep connections, and strengthens your faith. It's a step towards healing and growth, reminding you that you're not alone in your journey.

The Trust Factor

Navigating life's unpredictability is inherently challenging, and at the core of this journey is the concept of trust – specifically, trust in Jesus. This trust is not about ignoring or denying the emotions and realities that accompany life's ups and downs. It's not a call to a blind, unfeeling acceptance of whatever happens. Instead, trusting in Jesus is about embracing a deeper understanding and perspective that transcends our immediate circumstances.

To trust in Jesus means to acknowledge that there is a bigger picture at play, one that extends far beyond our immediate comprehension. Our human perspective is limited; we see things through the lens of our current situation, our emotions, and our understanding, which are all bound by time and space. However, Jesus operates beyond these limitations. His perspective encompasses not only our present but also our past and future, and He understands the intricate weaving of events and their purposes in a way that we cannot.

This trust is rooted in the character and promises of Jesus. It's about believing that He is good, that He loves us, and that He is sovereign over all aspects of life. When we trust in Jesus, we are placing our confidence in His wisdom, His timing, and His overarching plan for our lives, which is ultimately for our good and His glory, even if it doesn't align with our immediate desires or understanding.

Trusting in Jesus also involves an element of surrender. It's an admission that we don't have all the answers and that trying to control every aspect of our lives is futile. It's about letting go of our need to understand everything and instead, leaning into faith, believing that Jesus is in control, even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.

This doesn't mean that we won't experience doubt, fear, or confusion. These are natural human responses. However, in the midst of these emotions, trust in Jesus provides a foundation of peace and hope. It reassures us that we are not alone in our struggles and that there is a loving, powerful Savior who is working through every situation, even when we can't see it.

In practical terms, trusting in Jesus can look like praying for guidance and peace, seeking wisdom in Scripture, and listening for the Holy Spirit's direction in our lives. It involves making decisions not based on fear or anxiety, but with a calm assurance that Jesus is with us, guiding us every step of the way. It's a key aspect of our relationship with Him, fostering a deeper, more intimate connection with the One who holds our lives in His hands. In recognizing that there's a bigger picture we may not fully understand, we find the strength to face life's unpredictability with grace and confidence.

Learning to Let Go

Letting go and trusting Jesus is indeed a dynamic and ongoing process, not a one-time event. It's a daily practice of surrender, a continuous journey of yielding your fears, plans, and desires to Him. This act of surrender is beautifully encapsulated in Jesus’ own words in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). This statement reflects the essence of trust and submission to God’s will, even in the face of uncertainty and fear.

Surrendering to Jesus involves a conscious, daily decision to let go of our need for control. It's about waking up each day and acknowledging that our plans, however well-intentioned, are not always what's best for us. It's recognizing that our understanding is limited and choosing to rely on God's infinite wisdom and love. This process often requires a deliberate effort to shift our focus from our problems and uncertainties to God's promises and faithfulness.

The outcome of this process of surrender is the experience of God's peace, a peace that "surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). This peace is not contingent on external circumstances but is rooted in the unshakable assurance of God’s presence and faithfulness. It's a peace that provides comfort in chaos, strength in weakness, and hope in despair.

It's important to recognize that trusting Jesus is a lifelong journey. Each day presents new challenges and opportunities to deepen this trust. There will be moments of doubt and struggle, but these are all part of the process. With each act of surrender, trust in Jesus grows stronger, leading to a deeper relationship with Him and a greater understanding of His love and purpose for our lives.

Finding Joy Beyond Circumstances

Joy in Christ is profoundly different from the fleeting happiness that comes and goes with changing circumstances. This unique joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23. It’s an enduring sense of well-being and contentment that comes from knowing God is sovereign, loving, and always working in your life for your ultimate good, as promised in Romans 8:28.

This joy isn’t a superficial feeling that ignores the realities of pain, suffering, or disappointment. Instead, it’s a deep-rooted state of being that persists despite these challenges. It's the quiet confidence that God is with you, for you, and within you, regardless of what you're facing.

Practical Steps to Cultivate Joy

1. Prayer and Meditation

Spend time in prayer and meditation, focusing on God's promises and faithfulness. This isn't just about asking for things; it's about aligning your heart with God's heart. Reflect on His words in Scripture. Allow them to sink into your soul, renewing your mind and transforming your perspective. In this intimate communion with God, you'll often find peace and joy that are not of this world.

2. Gratitude

Practice gratitude. In the midst of trials, it's easy to lose sight of the blessings that abound in your life. Make it a habit to count your blessings, no matter how small they may seem. Keep a gratitude journal, or simply take a moment each day to reflect on something you're thankful for. This practice can shift your focus from what's going wrong to what's going right, fostering a spirit of joy and contentment.

3. Service

Serving others can profoundly shift your focus from your own problems to the joy of making a difference in someone else's life. Whether it's volunteering at a local shelter, helping a neighbor, or simply offering a listening ear to a friend, acts of service can bring about a sense of fulfillment and joy. In giving of yourself, you often receive much more in return—a sense of purpose, connection, and the joy that comes from embodying Christ's love to others.

4. Fellowship

Stay connected with your faith community. Christian fellowship is vital for nurturing joy in your life. It provides a sense of belonging and support, especially during tough times. Being part of a community allows you to share your burdens, celebrate your victories, and grow together in faith. This communal aspect of faith can uplift your spirit, reminding you that you're not alone in your journey.

Cultivating joy in Christ is a dynamic, ongoing process. It involves daily habits, choices, and attitudes that align with God's will and His ways. As you engage in prayer, gratitude, service, and fellowship, you'll find that joy in Christ becomes more than a concept—it becomes your lived experience, radiating from within, irrespective of the external circumstances.

Remember, it's okay to grieve and feel disappointed, but don't stay there. Let your emotions lead you to a deeper trust in Jesus. In Him, you'll find a joy that is steadfast and unshakable, regardless of what life throws your way. Trusting Jesus means embracing a joy that is beyond circumstances, a joy that is deep, lasting, and fulfilling.

Issata Oluwadare is a dynamic leader and innovative systems thinker with fifteen years of leadership experience in the private and non-profit sectors. She is also a content creator, four-time #1 best-selling author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, certified life coach & consultant for women in leadership and business, and the founder of The EZ Breezy Life. Issata is happily married with two children. Deeply rooted in Christ, she believes in transforming the lives of imperfect women through the grace of a perfect God. She is also the founder of The EZ Breezy Life, Manny's Village, and Issata O. Inc. Learn more about Issata O. by visiting


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