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At Lighthouse Family Retreat, we have four truths that guide our ministry to families living through childhood cancer: rest, joy, restoration, and hope. Leading up to our summer retreat season, we want to share the importance each of these plays in our lives, and how to overcome the obstacles and challenges to embracing them. Today on the blog, we’re talking about Joy.

“The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust in Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.”

~Psalm 28:7

Heidi Sanchez was one of the most joyful people I have known. Heidi seemed to always be able to not only see the silver lining of any situation, but to live in it. This part of her character always brought hope and encouragement to those around her, even while she was fighting cancer. My family remembers Heidi with grateful hearts because of the difference she made in our lives. I want to experience and spread joy the same way Heidi did.

How many of us wake up every morning and think about joy? Often, I wake up and I think about coffee and then my to-do list. With all the things that are thrown at us every day, it’s often easier to focus on the things that we are dissatisfied with instead of the things that “fill us with joy.”

This may be especially true when we are going through challenging circumstances. It can feel nearly impossible to be filled with joy when things aren’t going as we would like, there is so much to do, we are overcome with fear, we are overwhelmed with the future, and we are just plain worn out.

One of the most challenging passages in the Bible for me, comes from the book of James where he writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3) Sometimes it is difficult to experience joy because it can feel like we are invalidating the pain and difficulty of our circumstances. But, what if, like James seems to indicate, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. James doesn’t pretend like life is easy and trials don’t exist. For James, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” we experience trials… of many kinds! But what if James is right in saying it is possible to experience joy in the midst of challenging, difficult and, yes, even painful seasons?

One of the best ways to rediscover joy is in gratitude and celebration. There is almost always something we can point to that we are thankful for (even if it takes a little more effort some days than others)—the sunshine, the rain, the love of our friends and family, memories, another day... Each one of these is a reminder of God’s faithfulness! As the Psalmist wrote in the passage above, when we can trust God with all our heart, despite our circumstances, our hearts are filled with joy.

At Lighthouse, we do a lot of celebrating! We often think of celebrating as a big party with cake and presents. However, a celebration can be a simple verbal acknowledgement of something you’re thankful for, or an appreciation of another person.

Sometimes I need a physical reminder to choose gratitude and celebration. Grab a piece of paper and write down what you’re grateful for, leave it somewhere you can see it, and remind yourself there are still things to celebrate even in the midst of challenging, difficult, and painful seasons.

So, what are you grateful for? What can you celebrate this week?

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