Is it difficult to have joy in the midst of challenges? Yep. I've been in the midst for many years now. During this time, I have suffered many setbacks and been at the end of my rope--sometimes hanging on by a toenail. I have felt overwhelmed, heavy-laden. Absolutely exhausted. But despite the challenges, I have joy. You know why? Because I'm still here--still alive, still standing--in the midst.

Life is hard. At least mine is. But it's a wonderful life. I make the best of my circumstances and the opportunities presented to me. I choose how to handle life's challenges. That's one of the few things over which I have control. I can choose to dwell on my challenges, or I can choose to celebrate my blessings. I choose to see my life as rich with texture. Texture provides depth. The texture of my life came from learning the value of being in the midst. After all, it's in the midst that I learned who I am and what I'm made of.  It's in the midst I learned on whom to lean. It's in the midst that I learned I have strength where I thought I was weak, and that I am weak where I thought I had strength. It's in the midst that I learned who my true friends are.  It's in the midst that I found joy. It's in the midst that I learned that I can be bent by life's circumstances but not broken. In the midst, I learned to look for the lessons of my circumstances so as not to repeat them (if I have any control over them) and to use those lessons as a catapult to higher ground.

I'm stronger because of what I've learned in the midst. I'm wiser because of what I've learned in the midst. My faith has increased because of what I've learned in the midst. So when I look back over my life and the lessons I've learned in the midst, I can say without hesitation, yep, it's difficult to have joy in the midst of challenges. But I choose it anyway. I love its texture.

What about you? Do you find it difficult to have joy in the midst?
Aurora, Colorado. A trip to the movies. Going to have fun. Movie begins. Unexpected chaos. Gunfire. Confusion. Fear. Injuries. Pain. Death. Didn't see it coming. Couldn't see it coming. Why did it happen? No answers. Life has changed for some. Ended for others.

Reminder: Let's be grateful for what we have today. Not put off until tomorrow what we can/should do today. Tomorrow is not promised. We know not the day or the hour.
Are you familiar with the bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? It's one of my favorites. You can read it in its entirety in Daniel 3. In summary, it's the story of three men who disobeyed the king's edict to fall down and worship the king's golden statue, and ended up being thrown into a fiery furnace. They stood firmly on their belief that there is only one true God--the only one they would worship. They believed that their God would deliver them from the furnace, but even if He did not, they would not bow down to serve any other god. As a result, the king had the heat in the furnace increased sevenfold, and the men were bound and thrown fully clothed into the fiery furnace. Many people came to watch. However, as the king was looking inside the burning furnace, he noticed there were not 3, but 4, men walking around in the fire, with one looking like a god. He called for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out. The fire hadn't touched them at all--they were unscorched, unsinged, untainted even by the smell of smoke.

Have you ever been thrown in life's furnace? I know I have. Many times. And I've often felt like a circus monkey with some folks watching to see if I would be scorched. Now  there were times when I was singed because I was trying to handle things on my own. But in those times when I wore the right clothes (some of you know where I'm going with this), I came out unharmed. I don't mean there weren't some lessons learned. If we're smart, we're always looking for lessons. But when I put on my armor and, instead of trying to handle it myself, looked to God for my help, those are the times I came out of the fire without even a hint of smoke. And I feel joy in my soul about that.
How about you? Have you ever felt like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? How did you handle it?