How do we stay joyful during lockdown? Is it even right to feel joy when the Corona virus has brought such devastation, hardship and grief to so many people? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself ever since my daughter pointed out that the coming period is going to test our joy. I’ve turned to the Bible for answers, trying to uncover why it is important to maintain our joy in these uncertain times, and just how we can do it.
Joy is a Fruit of the Spirit
Scripture tells us that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Happiness is a fickle, fleeting emotion. Generally, we’re happy when things go well and unhappy when they don’t. Joy, on the other hand, is not dependant on our circumstances. Even as the early church faced opposition and persecution, we read, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52). Their joy didn’t flow from ideal conditions. It flowed from their relationship to Christ through the Holy Spirit.
We too live in adverse circumstances as the Covid-19 virus causes havoc to healthcare systems and economies around the world. For now, South Africa’s death-toll is low, yet we are all too aware that this deadly illness stalks our streets, and the fear of what it could unleash on our population stalks our minds. Let us learn from the early Christians that we can experience Christ’s joy in the midst of turmoil. We do this by staying connected to him.
Joy is a Witness to our Faith
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5). Since joy is a fruit of the Spirit, it is also a mark of our discipleship. This is one of the reasons Paul urges the Philippians to be filled with joy – it’s a witness to those around them. We have an opportunity to witness to a world caught in the grip of fear and uncertainty. Our joy—so at odds with what the rest of the world feels right now—may cause those around us to stop and wonder what makes us so different. Let us be ready with an answer.
Joy does not Deny our Feelings
I’ve heard it said that fear is the opposite of faith, but I don’t agree. God has given us emotions for a reason. Emotions such as fear and even anger are the warning lights that our hearts require a bit of work and TLC. In these emotional times let’s pay even closer attention to our feelings.
The feeling (warning light) is not wrong but we must be careful how we react to it. Do we allow fear to drive us to panic, obsessive worrying or impatient and unkind behaviour? If so, it will affect our relationship with Christ and steal our joy and peace. The right reaction is to take our feelings to God in prayer. I had to do this last week.
My Struggle with Fear
My daughter, Nicole, is an Occupational Therapist doing her community service at Barberton Hospital. She was on leave when the president announced the lockdown. On the day before the lockdown she returned to Mpumalanga and her work at the hospital. I felt like crying after she left. The thought that we would not be able to reach her in the next three weeks if she fell ill, filled me with fear.
I took it to God. Together we followed the wires of the warning light to the place that needed some heart-work. I discovered that my fear was rooted in the realisation that I have absolutely no control over this situation. Ultimately, all I could do was entrust Nicole into God’s care. Once I had done that, I felt his peace replace my anxiety, and my joy returned.
Find Joy in the Word
“I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches” (Psalm 119:14 NLT). The Psalmist reminds us that God’s Word is a source of great joy. I have found this to be particularly true lately as I wrestle with my anxiety around the Corona pandemic. Without fail, God has impressed a verse on my heart as I do my daily reading – a promise to take me through the day and share with others. The Psalms have particularly blessed me lately. Here are a few of the verses that have ministered to me these last few days: Psalm 27:1; Psalm 28:7; Mark 4:38-40; Philippians 4:4-7.
Find Joy in Fellowship with other Christians
Our churches may have closed their doors, but I’m sensing that Christian fellowship and community is stronger than ever before. Technology allows us to watch sermons, listen to podcasts, join live Facebook prayer meetings and have Zoom bible studies. I’ve drawn courage and strength from my Christian family at this time. Their faith lifts me when I feel discouraged. Their love warms me when I feel lonely. Their hope kindles my own. We need each other and are a gift to each other. Let’s stay connected to this God-given source of joy.
Find Joy in God’s Creation
I have found real enjoyment in nature lately. In Jo’burg the Autumn mornings are crisp and clear. With almost no traffic during lockdown, I notice doves coo-ing and sparrows twittering. We have a little 8-week old rescue kitten who claws his way onto our bed, pouncing on anything that moves under the covers. My dog lies peacefully sleeping at my feet as I write this, fully trusting that the world is still a safe place to be.
I draw comfort from the changing seasons and these simple, beautiful creatures of God. They are tangible reminders that the Lord is in control. He is faithful. Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26-27). Jesus loved nature and drew deep spiritual lessons from it, and by paying attention, we can do the same.
A Blessing for Joy, Peace and Hope
Paul wrote this blessing to the Romans, and I’d like to leave it with you as a prayer for your lockdown lives. It’s a reminder that the way to stay joyful during lockdown is to stay anchored to God, trusting Him fully with your life and the lives of your loved ones.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).