Some recognition you likely don’t want. It’s 2017. Just named the “most miserable year” in more than a decade. This according to Gallup’s Global Emotional Index study. This study of more than 145 countries found people are experiencing more worry, stress, physical pain, anger or sadness at any point since the polling started in 2005. On an encouraging note, Latin America was named the most positive region.
Can you recall a time when you felt truly miserable? Maybe you are miserable now. Miserable in your marriage, or miserable in your job. What should you do? Consider the New Testament missionary Paul. While in chains in a Roman prison during the first century, Paul gave this challenge to one of the churches: “Rejoice! And I say it again, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Here is Paul in a miserable situation, and he said, “Choose joy!”
So how do we get to “joy” when we are miserable? Consider the following steps.
Quit Trying to Make People Feel Sorry for You
Do you know why we do this when we are miserable? There is a kind of power in causing people to walk on eggshells to make sure they don’t say or do something to increase your misery.
The Better Step: Start living. I think this is what Paul, the missionary, meant when he said, “Choose joy.” We can sit around and sulk, mope, and feel sorry for ourselves because of past mistakes or failures. Or we can get up and embrace a new day. Moving from a miserable person to a joyful person has to start the moment you wake up.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
When you are miserable you had rather close the blinds, shut the door, and just be a couch potato who faces your misery alone.
The Better Step: Build a support system. Who is a trusted friend you can talk with? Who are the people who truly love you and who will tell you the truth? Reach out to those persons. Joy comes from being in relationship with others.
Choose a Different Way of Seeing Things
Miserable people never see or expect the good in anything. Miserable people have no hopes and expect nothing good to happen. If this is the way you feel, choose a different way of seeing your day as well as your circumstances.
A Better Step: Be grateful. Here is an exercise I learned from a helpful book many years ago. Each day thank God for something you have never thanked Him for before. For example, I recall thanking God for a teacher who taught me to write. And then I thanked him that I had a pen to write with. Another day I thanked God for my shoes, and so on.
Refuse to Play the Victim
Miserable people are masters at victimhood. They blame their parents, a boss, a teacher, a husband or wife, or the police. You get the idea. Playing the blame game leaves you feeling stuck, and it only makes your victimhood persist.
A Better Step: You have the power to move on. Love yourself, forgive the oppressor, quit living in the past, and move forward. You really can do this. It’s a choice you make.
Commit Your Misery to Your Heavenly Father
God loves you and wants the best for you. He really does. So, this being true, why would you not place all your trust and faith in Him? He has promised, that if you will live for Him and love Him, He will take every circumstance of your life and work them for your good and His glory (see Romans 8:28).
A Better Step: You can trust God because He is in charge. The Bible teaches God is “sovereign,” meaning in control. This fact points us back to missionary Paul’s joy. Bible joy means I can have inner delight despite my miserable circumstances because I know God is in charge and He has my best interests at heart. Isn’t this hopeful?