Written By Anna Chee, Singapore
For three years, I joined netball as an extra-curricular activity in school. Looking back, that season in life was overshadowed by a deep sense of joylessness. I had joined netball with a childish hope that I would somehow “glow up” to become like one of those typical netball players—pretty with a tall and willowy frame, but also strong, agile, and fast.
However, each training session only served to aggravate my insecurities. I became resentful about my non-netball-player-like frame and my sub-par performance on court when I compared myself to my fellow teammates. This worsened when I sought validation from my coach, as she often ignored the weaker players altogether.
Every training session left me on a downspiral: I was fatigued, disappointed, and joyless. Frustrated, I eventually decided to turn to God, asking Him how I could find joy and strength to be a light for Him in this situation. Here are three keys I learned that helped me in my journey towards a joy-filled life:
1. Don’t compare yourself with others
Comparison is the thief of our joy. It is normal to compare ourselves with others, but it becomes unhealthy when we go about it obsessively, and put ourselves down for not measuring up to them.
For some of us, we might be guilty of comparing in the areas of our financial status, popularity, academic results, or talents. In my case, comparing my figure and athletic skills with others caused me to lose the joy I used to have in playing netball.
These days, it has become even easier to feel discontented with our own lives when images of influencers’ perfect lives pop up all over our social media platforms, but I have since learned to be content with my lot, because everything I have is from God, and He knows what’s best for me.
If you’re struggling in this area, don’t be afraid to weed out the profiles on social media that drive your discontentment—and click that unfollow button! It also helps to remind ourselves that each person is uniquely formed by God. We do not need to be as skilled, talented, or popular than someone else to be loved or valued—we are already loved and valued by God. Let Christ—and not the standards of the world—define our value.
It can be difficult to fight the battle of comparison alone, and I’ve found it helpful to surround myself with friends I can share my struggles with, and who will commit to pray with me about my struggles and keep me accountable in this area.
2. Firmly place your trust in God
One sure way to kill our joy is to complain about the difficulties we are facing or allow ourselves to worry too much about the future. When I was too focused on my shortcomings, it was more difficult to motivate myself to go for training sessions.
But I was convicted about my attitude when I read a passage from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional: “Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and [this] shall end your distresses. There is One who cares for you. His eye is fixed on you, … and his hand omnipotent shall bring you the needed help.”
This passage prompted me to ask myself: If God has promised me that He will help me through my troubles, am I mocking Him when I wear a brow of worry or moan to my friends all the time?
Spurgeon’s words also reminded that I can cast all my anxiety on Him because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), and I can rest secure in God’s arms because He will give me all the help I need to face the challenges before me. That is the knowledge that leads to true joy.
Having a firm trust in God’s will also meant coming to terms with the fact that He has placed me in the netball team for a purpose. Eventually, God helped me see that my other teammates were also feeling demoralized, and I could be a light in this situation by being a source of encouragement and spreading God’s joy during the training sessions.
Here’s a journal entry I wrote from one training session: “[The reminder to bloom where I am planted] really encouraged me to do my best and spread the fragrance of Christ’s love to the team—and it worked! It turned out to be a really joyful training [session] with everyone.”
Remembering how I endured through tough times and persevered filled me with joy. Through this experience, God taught me what it looks like to “bloom where you are planted”— it means not looking for an escape from every tough situation, but living for Christ wherever we are.
3. Cultivate a thankful heart
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that it is God’s will for us to “give thanks in all circumstances”. It’s easy to type this, but incredibly difficult to live it out. This is why we need to continuously depend on Christ to help us keep our eyes on God and cultivate a thankful heart.
Despite the strenuous netball training sessions, I found that giving thanks for small things, like having friends on the same team or the cool weather helped me see God’s hand working for my good, and granted me joy!
It’s far easier to gravitate towards negativity, but when we count our blessings (literally), we can see how much God has blessed us with, and our hearts will naturally well up in thankfulness.
Although my time with the netball team was a tough one, I’ve learned that our experiences can make or break us, but if we give them to God, He will weave them into something beautiful.
Despite not “glowing up” physically as I had hoped to at first, God graciously let me “glow up” mentally and spiritually. As a result of persevering through those few years, I’ve found a stronger will to press on when going through difficulties and have grown deeper in my faith.
I also find it easier to empathize with the struggles that my friends are facing, and can now point them towards Christ—the true joy-giver. If you’re also struggling to find joy in your life, I pray that you will find these three principles helpful, and find the same joy that sustained me.