There are days when it hurts to get out of bed. Days when a hollowness aches so profoundly within me that my thoughts are muddled, my energy wanes, and having a conversation literally hurts. Days when I don’t feel like myself at all and, try as I may, I just can’t seem to pull myself out of the fog that threatens to consume me.
I’ve suffered bouts of depression on and off for over 30 years. It’s not something I often share with others because there’s a stigma surrounding depression that often causes people to see and treat you differently. And I don’t want people to treat me differently. Frankly, I hate feeling that way and don’t want to give depression any more power than it already has, so I do my best to mask the pain and move through it.
If you suffer or have suffered from depression, you know the ache I’m talking about. It’s an ache that leaves you feeling completely empty while at the same time filled with overwhelming sorrow you can feel to the very tips of your fingers. Depression is a beast.
If you’ve never dealt with depression, that’s great! But you’re not off the hook. We live in a broken and fallen world, which means life will have times of great pain and sorrow. That is something we can count on. Death, illness, broken relationships, and hardships are all part of the messiness of life on earth. In this life, we will face seasons of trials and sorrow.
When I think of the topic of trials, my mind immediately thinks of what James had to say about the subject:
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2,3 CSB).
We are to find joy in our trials. That seems like a strange command to me. Finding joy in our trials is not natural, is it? How on earth do we do that?
Two keywords in that passage tell us how we can find joy in those seasons.
The first keyword is “consider.” Consider in this verse comes from the Greek word hegeomai. Hegeomai simply translated means to count or to think. So, we’re supposed to think about joy in the trials. Sounds challenging, but we can try, right?
With a little more research, I discovered a powerful definition of hegeomai in Vine’s Expository Dictionary, explaining it means “primarily, to lead the way; hence, to lead before the mind.”1 That definition tells us how James wants us to practice considering or thinking about joy in the trials. James isn’t telling us that joy is a soft, lovely goal in our trials. Instead, he’s telling us that joy is to be our primary focus; joy should lead our minds.
Think about a time when you faced a trial or overwhelming sorrow. Was joy your primary focus? Did joy lead your thoughts? For most of us, the answer is “no“ because joy is not the natural human reaction to pain and hardship. So, how do we lead with joy?
James continued, telling us that we can lead with joy “because [we] know that the testing of [our] faith produces endurance” (v.3). When we experience pain and suffering in this life, our joy comes from knowing that our faith is being strengthened. This leads to the next keyword, “faith,” and the question of what we place our faith in.
When life is complicated and messy, and we are tested, we quickly realize how shaky our world is. Life is uncertain. Seasons of prosperity can be instantly turned upside down, and trials abound. Our faith cannot be placed in the world we live in.
When trials come our way, we also realize how limited we are to overcome our hardships. We can only do so much in our own strength. Along with that, our family, friends, doctors, lawyers, and other humans are limited in the help they can provide to us to overcome the challenges of this life. Our faith cannot be placed in humans.
So, where should our faith rest? That is the easiest question I’ve had to think about all week – our faith has only one solid footing, and that is in the knowledge of the goodness of our God!
Let me tell you just a little about the goodness of our God:
God is immutable; He does not change (Malachi 3:6).
God is love; it’s not just something He does; love is who He is (1John 4:8).
God is gracious. He is merciful. He is slow to anger. He is great in lovingkindness (Psalm 145:8).
God is perfect. He is faithful. He is righteous. He is just (Deuteronomy 32:4).
God is good (Psalm 34:8).
That list could go on and on and on. When we’re faced with trials in this life, we must lead with the knowledge of the goodness of God because He is where our faith must reside.
But, sweet friend, that is something we must practice; it doesn’t come naturally to us. It’s also something we must prepare for before the hard seasons hit. How can we practice and prepare? By getting to know our God. That means pursuing Him and building a relationship with Him.
Here’s the thing, God is always available to us, which is mindblowing and a conversation for another day. That said, if we’re not spending time with Him, it’s on us. We have to choose to be with Him, seek Him, and explore who He is! We do that by spending time in His Word.
Not only is the Bible filled with information about who God is, but it is also filled with His thoughts! Thoughts about us, about the world, about eternity, about Himself! If we want to truly know God, we must choose to make time for that relationship and get into His Word!
As we do, our minds will be filled with the knowledge of His goodness. Then, when hard times come, we will be ready to lead with the joy of knowing the One our faith is placed in and the goodness of who He is!
Today, I encourage you to open Your Bible, even if you don’t feel like it, even if you think you don’t have time. Make time, my friend, because if you don’t, you will miss the miracle of your mind being transformed as you get to know God.
Listen, there are days when I would rather lie in bed and cry than open up my Bible. Because life hurts, and sometimes the idea of forcing myself to read or think seems too much. But when I practice seeking God, I always, always find Him. Sometimes it takes a bit because I have to get past myself before I can pursue Him. But it is worth the struggle it took to get there when I do.
In those moments, my depression doesn’t vanish, but peace resides in my mind as my focus shifts from myself to the goodness of God. In those moments, joy begins to appear. It doesn’t mean I feel good or happy, but as I remember who God is, my perspective shifts, and joy fills my heart and mind.
Because God is good. And, for me, knowing that is enough.
“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Psalm 32:11 (ESV)
Chrissie Angell is the Executive Director and a Co-founder for Humble Faith Ministries. She is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher who is passionate about pointing women to Jesus and helping them live out their Kingdom assignments. She and her husband Brian live in Kentucky with their two boys and their yellow lab, Charger.
1Vine, W. E. 2003. Vine's Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Incorporated, 238.