You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.
Psalm 16:11 (CSB)
Did you know the phrase “dumpster fire” is in the dictionary? In 2018, Merriam-Webster decided this colorful description of disaster was used often enough by enough people that it deserved its own entry.
I suppose I’m not surprised. How many times have I used that phrase to describe a situation or a season? A lot. I’ve said it a lot.
But lately I’ve been trying to avoid the saying, which one reporter calls a “gleefully catastrophic phrase.”* While it remains true— sometimes devastatingly so—that this world offers us constant chaos and catastrophe, that isn’t the only truth I know and believe. And it isn’t the reality I want to focus on or have a false sense of delight in.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should deny reality or pretend like everything is fine when it’s not. We shouldn’t filter our words and our photos so heavily that nobody ever sees our true feelings. And I am certainly not saying it’s wrong to grieve or struggle when life is hard. But while it’s healthy to feel our feelings and to share openly with trusted friends and family, let’s not dive into despair and throw our hope into the dumpster!
When we throw up our hands and declare a situation, a season, an entire calendar year to be a complete loss (i.e., a dumpster fire), we’re choosing to abandon hope and walk away from the joy God is placing before us. Instead, we’re attempting to find joy in the fleeting—and false—feeling of relief that comes from cursing a hard circumstance and avoiding both the real pain we’re experiencing and any gift or beauty that God offers us in the midst of that pain.
My oldest daughter just turned thirteen, and already I’m tired of people telling me how terrible the teen years are. First of all, I’m not so old that I’ve forgotten the challenges of being a teenager (and the many fights I got into with my mom). Second, and more importantly, I don’t like being told that I should expect parenting to be miserable for the next several years.
Thankfully, a few of my friends have children a bit older than mine and have chosen to find joy in parenting their teenagers. When they share about late-night conversations, shared laughs over old movies or autocorrect disasters, or the way having another driver in the house frees up their time (if not their worries), I feel so grateful to see that it’s not all bad. I’m encouraged to look for the ways God gives us joy in even the most annoying, awkward, or awful seasons.
At the time I’m writing this, our world resembles a dumpster fire in so many ways. It’s hard out there, and to be honest, it’s hard in here. Globally and personally, it’s been a difficult season—and I’m not sure when it will get better. If ever I’ve been tempted to throw in the towel and feel confident that joy is nowhere to be found, this is it. But rather than leaning into the cynicism that says nothing good can come from any of this, instead of abandoning my deep belief that we can choose the joy of the Lord in even the darkest times, I’m determined to choose joy.
Are you looking at a world or a season or even a life that you desperately want to declare a waste, a loss, a real dumpster fire? What would it feel like to pause, take a deep breath, and open your heart just enough to be filled with the joy of God’s love and His presence in your life? Is it possible to do this?
If you’re struggling to find anything good at all, ask God to help. Ask Him to reveal the path of life to you, to open your eyes to the beauty in the middle of the pain, to show you one reason to feel joy. Perhaps it’s simply His presence that brings you comfort and then delight. Perhaps He will show you the work He’s doing even while chaos seems to reign. Perhaps He will redirect your thoughts to focus on the good gifts He gives us rather than the pain of this world.
Finding joy when everything is falling apart (or burning) feels impossible, but nothing is impossible for our God. Ask Him to be with you and to bring you joy, and He will do it.
Lord, thank You for never abandoning me or this world when we seem like a lost cause. Please give me the strength to feel my feelings but to also keep going, to search for beauty, and to find joy—no matter my circumstances. Give me eyes to see You wherever I look today. Amen.
I loved this,Mary!!! So timely!!! I choose Joy in the Lord and ask him for more opportunities to experience it…. Every day!! Thank you!!!!
Thank you! Thank you!
My husband and I have been married 10 short years but from the very beginning we were put in the position to raise a very troubled girl. Every moment has been spent trying to provide an environment where she she could grow into the person she was meant to be. Recently she informed us that she no longer wanted to live in this “house that is not a home. We were devastated and have been trying to connect to that joy that we know God provides for us. We are moving towards that in all aspects of our lives and and are starting not see and feel the heat of all those dumpster fires. Thank you for your words as we move into this 3rd Week of Advent and joy!
Beth Williams says
Abba Father please help O & her husband with their daughter. Soften the heart of their daughter. Help her to see that they are loving, caring parents. Give them peace & comfort in their weary souls. Bring about a peaceful solution to all this. Shower them all with your joy this Christmas.
Nancy Peters says
Wonderful blog! It’s been a tough year for me and my husband. We’ve had many health issues and are weary and tired. I pray and “give it all to the Lord”, but still get discouraged.
Thank you for this strong reminder to seek His joy and presence in all the seasons we go through.
Blessings to you Mary!! Nancy
Beth Williams says
Blessed Jesus-Send your healing touch to Nancy & her husband. Take away some of the pain & send your loving touch. Give them peace & joy in their weary tired souls. Bless them & take away their discouragement. AMEN!
Beth Williams says
This year has been a mixed bag of good & sad. Good in that I started a new full-time benefitted job as ICU Clerical. One day the job changed drastically as the other clerical just quit. I had to quickly learn everything there was to do. It was daunting. Add to that my shoes got ruined & I haven’t found a good replacement (although I’ve tried many times). My hubby hasn’t liked his job of many years-(CT Tech at medium hospital). To much work & stress for him. He recently told me that this has been a lousy year. We pray for each other daily. Asking God to send us & everyone joy in this holiday season.
The brokenness in my family I think is beyond repair. Please pray for me & my family for God to heal us before it’s too late. God Bless
It has been a tough year for us as well, with personal family issues, medical issues for myself, good friends moving,
Therapies.. the list has grown. However, we have been able to make slow progress, and beginning to hope that new connections and bridges are forming. Prayers would be so very welcome, and I strive for keeping my faith.
Thank you, Mary! Wise words.
Ariel Krienke says
I feel like giving up because Christians get ignored and we are told to ignore truth. Now truth is what you feel instead of what God says. Can’t even have discussions anymore with people because they can’t decide what a fact is and meanings of words get changed everyday. The devil and enemies are taunting me.
But I need to remind myself to look at the score board. Jesus has already won. So the pain here is only for a little while and then forever peace.
My husband and I are in a difficult situation not between the 2 of us but with other relationships. I really needed this blog post this morning. I had come downstairs when I first woke up, and I was thinking how I don’t even feel like celebrating Christmas even though I know in my heart that Christmas is all about Jesus. “Finding joy when everything is falling apart..feels impossible, but nothing is impossible for our God.” Praying I’ll find peace and joy in the Prince of Peace despite challenging changes and uncertainties ahead.
Chass & Kriss says
The world as of this and past years definately have been devistating, seemingly hopeless, full of despair, depressing, and harsh! Take into account our economy already somewhat “shady”, then COVID epidemic hit, majority of country went jobless, people going so broke trying to survive on reserves while jobless, and we went into the hole of debt after the Stimulus payouts, MANY folks lost their place they called home because of loss of jobs and income. Property owners were kicking us out to the curb before our government finally decided to give us relief from that Long time through all this hopelessness, persons dieing, people’s home and finances-broke, we then finally started to see some “daylight” arrive with an elected president who brought us back (and left us and our country in good standings – mine and many other’s beliefs) were some hope was rekindled. Now, that things were looking better for us, the country (majority being the politicians and congressional parties) started WHINING about our president and what he supposedly was doing (which mainly was removing from departments of our government that was foolishly spending OUR money – NOT theirs! – and putting it back into our hands and jobs!! Instead of attacking the one helping and doing good for us the citizens, the citizens should have gone after the politicians and, especially, the governing bodies such as congress. My belief (or opinion) is that congress and/or any other governing party shouls NEVER be allowed to stay in office indefinately! When the president goes and not re-elected another term, then everyone else should also be removed and re-elected or replaced as we the citizens vote as such!
In summary, what does all the above have with relation to this article? My opinion is it proves how easily satin can persuade us to make wrong and/or seriously negative decisions which will lead to forgetting that we DO HAVE a higher governing body – that being the heavenly throne of GOD where HE and HIS help will NOT trick us, deceive us, or persuade us to ignore our better judgment as guided by HIS Spirit(s). We should “stand fast in our faith”, look upward and BELIEVE where our HOPE and guidance REALLY comes from. Then say, “thank you Heavenly Father”, believe “it is done”, and LEAVE it in HIS hands!
Chass & Kriss
Barbara K Rothman says
I enjoy reading your posts & if we lived closer would-be friends. I want to encourage you with your daughter becoming 13. We have 3 children all grown. My husband & I both wish we could have done things differently but thankful we have a very close relationship with each of our children, their spouses & our 3 granddaughters. My biggest suggestion for keeping your relationship open with your daughter is keep communication open. Spend time talking with her about her days, her blessings, fears, everything. Be a safe haven for her to come to. We look back & wish we would have spent more time taking with our kids (2 boys & 1 girl) but you can’t go back in time but only use that for the future.
Our middle son was the most difficult & we were there for him through each trial. He knew we loved him but discovered it in a hard situation. Time has passed & he has 2 wonderful daughters & a loving, faithful wife. His oldest is about to turn 13 years old & she is super close to her Dad.
Mary, just keep loving your daughter throughout each trial & she’ll know she has a safe haven with you & your husband. Teenagers can be so loving, kind, compassionate & great teachers for us!
Merry Christmas to you & your family!