5 Tips on Finding Joy When Life Seems Joyless
It’s ironic that the week after I spoke on “Joy” I’m having a terrible week filled with anger, pain, and frustration. The reasons for these feelings have kept me up at night and have infiltrated my mind as soon as I wake. I continue to try to shake these emotions to little avail. On the way to work this morning, after my time in prayer I knew that one of my tasks for today was writing about the JOY that I had spoken of just a few days ago, and frankly, I am feeling a disconnect from the truth of transcendent JOY that I claimed Jesus offers.
So, is it a lie? Is the JOY that goes beyond my circumstance just something that God’s Word claims, that I spoke of, all just a hoax? A hopeful, yet undelivered reality? If I can speak so passionately about JOY from the stage, but find myself fueled by bitterness and hurt, at times wanting to roll my eyes at “JOY”, is JOY just a fleeting feeling when things are good?
I’m not sure where you are right now, but I am sure that you’ve experienced crushing relational, financial or emotional tensions that have had you questioning your faith, or at least the promise of “JOY.” I’m sure you’ve looked at your circumstances and asked, God, “How in the world can I “Always be joyful”” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). While I clearly don’t have it figured out, and am struggling through my own issues, I do believe that the JOY that God offers, even when our emotions try stuff it away in the attic, is still there if we take steps to move the clutter from in front of it, and fight to find the truth. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
1) Invite people to pray for you!
One of the Devil’s greatest schemes is isolation. “Do this on your own.” “No one needs to know.” “Asking for prayer is weakness.” Statements like these keep the battle for joy in your own strength, by yourself. God has established a Church to be a community of people who pray for, encourage and spur one another on to be more like Christ. There is so much spiritual warfare going on around us that we foolishly try to fight on our own: DON’T! Share with others what you are going through and beg for them to intercede for you.
2) Don’t believe that emotions are bad
Sometimes we think the “Christian thing to do” is to just “let it go,” and “work past it.” God’s Word invites us to “weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15) Maybe you need to give that same permission to yourself with the pain and frustration you are feeling. Bring it to God, and to your trusted friends, and be emotional about it. God has given us emotions. They are real and need to be acknowledged and spent. As anger, pain, confusion, and heartache rise, talk about it with people who can hold it with you, help you process it, and bring it to God. Remember Jesus didn’t just die for the action of sin, He also died for the results of sin… which includes the pain you are going through.
3) Keep in mind the alternative
Those things that are drowning out your joy suck but, without Jesus, they are simply season of your life that is terrible, hurtful, and depressing, that you just have to eventually get over cause “that’s life.” With Jesus, they still suck, but the reality that “this is not all there is” comes with it. With Jesus you have a promise of a God who loves you, who brings meaning and purpose to your life, who will use the darkness you are in, and who will one day “wipe away every tear” in a place of eternal glory. Without God your pain will not be redeemed, with God your pain will be replaced with unhindered, eternal, glorious joy.
4) Focus on the Good
In the times where joy is being silenced, I find myself being consumed by negative thoughts. This advice is not to “forget the sadness” and “just think happy thoughts,” but it is and encouragement, in the midst of your pain, to practice praise. Look for the blessings around you and give thanks to God for those things. One thing I’ve challenged people to do is: for thirty days write down a list of ten things you are thankful for each day, and each day the list cannot include anything you’ve included previously. This practice becomes more difficult as the days go by, but it will train your eye to see some good in the midst of bad, recalling the joy of the Lord.
5) ASK: What advice and encouragement would you give others?
Part of the reason I wrote this was to “preach to myself.” It is sometimes easier to give others advice than it is to snap out of your funk. Sometimes when I have issues of anger, depression, or frustration with others my wife will ask me, “What advice would you give yourself?” Centering my mind on how God would help me advise others I’ll answer the question, helping myself process what I’m going through. Even as I write this, there are things that I need to do. If you are feeling a lack of joy, find someone you love who is feeling down, and who you want to encourage, and get together to listen, love and advise… then listen to the words you’ve spoken and take your advice.
Joy is not a manufactured happiness; it is a hope filled gladness. Your circumstances can definitely bruise you with pain and life’s tensions can easily cloud your eyes from seeing the JOY that only God can offer. These steps to help keep JOY stoked inside of you are not easy, and take fighting for, especially when you feel down. So, make sure that you have people in your life that you can be honest with, who will hold your struggles, your pain, your frustration, and who will remind you of God’s love.