How to find joy in life during difficult times

How to find joy in life during difficult times

Some days, when life is beating us up left and right, it seems impossible to find things to be joyful. The Bible gives us a different story though. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” The Bible says that not only is it possible to find things to be joyful about during trials, but it actually commands us to do so!

Unfortunately, part of being a Christian means that we will face times of difficulty. Why? Because even though we are Christians, we are still human beings and that’s part of the plan. Jesus went through rough times during His earthly ministry, and if we want to be like Him, (which is what the Christians life is all about), we too will have some hard knocks.

The Bible talks about people who endured some really, really tough situations and yet found joy in the midst of their pain. Take Job for example. Now there’s a sad story! He had everything taken away, and he didn’t even do anything wrong! He lost his family, his health, his career, everything he had ever worked for, and he still found things to praise God for (Job 1:21). Can you imagine losing everything yet still praising God?

There are plenty of other examples throughout the Bible of people who went through awful things that we can’t even imagine, but they all still praised God. Their perseverance made their faith stronger. First Peter 1:6-9 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Shift Your Perspective

Following God’s command to be joyous in the midst of trials is really a matter of perspective. If you really look and think hard enough, you will always find something to be thankful for—even if life seems too hard to go on. Be thankful for your relationship with God, thankful that you do not have to spend eternity in Hell, thankful for another day of life. Be thankful that your situation is not worse than it is.

If you step back, you can find the joy and encouragement that God is sending to you. Be thankful for something as simple as a bird that suddenly flew by and made you smile. Being thankful leads to praising God for those things. After all, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). If we are thankful for something, no matter how small, we should turn that into praise for our Lord.

A Spiritual Workout

Trials are no fun, but the Bible says God uses them to make us stronger. There is no spiritual gym we can obtain a membership to so we can go and workout our spiritual biceps. We must be “worked out” and strengthened through God’s methods. Trials are one way He develops our character and our endurance. We don’t wanna be wimpy Christians with weak faith, do we? No way! We want to be tough and resilient warriors for God who can endure the tests of the flesh.

Okay, so how exactly does a person go about being joyful during terrible, awful, gut-wrenching times?

Joy vs. Happiness

Well, first things first, let’s clarify that “joy” does not mean the same thing as “happy”. Happiness is something that is temporary—one minute, you’re soaring because the teacher forgot to collect last night’s homework assignment that you forgot to do. until Mr. A+ sitting next to you reminds her. Aw, snap. Happiness = gone.

Happiness is fleeting, but joy sticks around. For example, if your grandparent who was a Christian passes away, you may feel tremendous grief and sadness; there would be no room for happiness there. But you may find joy in the fact that they were a Christian and now live eternally in Heaven with no pain and no sorrow. This type of joy can only be provided by God. Happiness won’t get us through hard times in the long run, but joy from God will.

If we think hard enough on the things of God, we can always find something to be joyful about. Maybe not something that’s going to make you “happy” per se, but you can still find deep joy.

Choosing Joy that Lasts

The great thing about joy compared to happiness is that joy can’t leave us any more than the Holy Spirit can. It may seem to have disappeared sometimes, but because we are Christians, we have been given the Holy Spirit to continuously work inside of us. Joy is an automatic part of the package! John 15:11 says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Also, Acts 13:52 says, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Yes, you and I both know that hard times will come. That’s just life. But for the believer, God promises that those trials have a purpose (see Jeremiah 29:11). Let’s look to Him during those difficulties and remember that no trial lasts forever, but our God-given joy does!

Experiencing God’s joy is a choice. During dark days, when we think we just can’t make it another step, let’s remember that Jesus never leaves us no matter what we are going through. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Keep truckin’ in the midst of trouble and remember that even while you are suffering, you are being perfected for a greater purpose. There is a reason for all the hurts and pain. Remember James 1:12 in those tough times, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Hang in there, and choose joy one day at a time!

Experiencing God’s joy is a choice. Remind yourself that Jesus never leaves you (Hebrews 12:2). Being joyous in the midst of trials is really a matter of perspective. Trials are no fun, but the Bible says God uses them to make us stronger. Remember that “joy” does not mean the same thing as “happy”. Happiness is fleeting, but joy sticks around. True joy can only be provided by God. Happiness won’t get us through hard times in the long run, but joy from God will.

Stressed about your health, the pandemic, unemployment, financial uncertainty, or civil unrest? Even in these tough times, you can find joy in your daily life and improve your outlook.

How to find joy in life during difficult times

Now more than ever, finding joy in your day-to-day experiences can improve your quality of life and enhance and protect your mental health. As many of us are mired in intense and heavy information from the news and social media, financial instability, and political and civil unrest, it’s become more and more difficult to find peace—both internally and externally. Furthermore, for many adults who are working from home while taking on new roles and responsibilities for their children’s academic needs, a newfound stress in the home is ever present. How can we, both individually and as a collective, “spark joy” to lift our own and each other’s spirits to get through difficult times?

Tips for finding joy in your life

Here are some ideas to give you a pick me up:

Listen to your favorite music. It can help you recall positive memories, providing an escape from the day-to-day difficulties you may be facing. Recalling these memories by listening to music is an easy and passive way to boost your mood while you’re working, cleaning, or just hanging out at home. Research has shown that listening to your favorite jams can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality, and enhance mood, too.

Develop a daily gratitude practice. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal; just think of one to three simple statements a day such as, “I am grateful I have a roof over my head,” “I am grateful for the sun that rises each morning that I feel on my skin,” or “I am grateful for the delicious strawberries I had today.” At the end of each day, write in a journal or say aloud the things you were grateful for, as simple as they may be. By doing this, even during the most difficult or distressing times, your gratitude practice will help bring your circumstances into perspective, indirectly create joy, and keep you grounded.

Spend time in a vision practice. Close your eyes and focus on your very favorite place, person, mantra, prayer, or even vacation. Breathe into the moment and envision yourself in this space or situation. Consider the colors, tastes, textures, and conversations. Try to spend a dedicated five minutes soaking in the moment, slowing down your breathing and relaxing your body. Some people find that this practice is enhanced either by laying down with bolsters under the legs and a weighted blanket on top of the body or by sitting in a chair with a cushion behind the back and under the feet. Meditating regularly in this way can help remind you that aspects of whatever difficult situation you’re dealing with—such as isolation, sadness, or desperation—are temporary. You will once again have more positive experiences, and these short meditations may even help you create new ones.

Find the “awe” moment every day. “Awe” is the concept of experiencing wonder and amazement. Awe frequently conjures up the idea of something “big” like snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef or seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. However, researchers are finding that if we take the time to notice small, pleasurable moments every day, we can reap the same benefits. Awe moments can be found in seeing the sun rise, for example, or watching ants march. We can also experience “awe” by reading beautiful poetry or hiking on a new path and seeing interesting rocks or flowers. Take the time to notice things around you that you may have taken for granted. By relishing them and their place in the world (and yours), you can derive more meaning from your life, feel more connected to the world at large, and experience more joy in the day to day.

Tips for helping others experience joy

The following ideas can help others experience joy. Since helping others is one of the best ways to feel happier and healthier yourself, when they feel joy, you will, too.

Send letters, poems, or drawings to first responders, essential workers, or elderly people on their own, for example. By engaging in this activity, you are bringing a sense of comfort and joy to others and giving yourself a feeling of fulfillment for having passed on some happiness to others. Additionally, it can help shift your attention away from your own day-to-day struggles and the heaviness you may be feeling.

Start collecting spare change or a small amount of money every day, with the intention of donating it to a charity of your choice. At the end of a designated period of time (one to three months), write a letter to the charity letting them know what you did, why, and the meaning behind the donation. Saving the money and seeing the fruits of your labor will spark joy that you were able to meet a goal. Additionally, by writing a letter you’ll be able to express your intentions of goodwill to another. Oftentimes, when we voice our positivity instead of keeping it inside, we can further feel joy throughout our soul.

Run an errand for a friend or order food for them. Helping others with even something small can be a big stress reducer right now. They will be so thankful. And from their gratitude, you’ll experience a sense of joy—as will they.

Let your joy be in your journey

As you can see, experiencing joy, even in light of all the difficulties we are facing at this time both personally and collectively, can be achieved by some easy modifications to our day-to-day activities.

“Let your joy be in your journey—not in some distant goal”—Tim Cook

Author: Stephanie Mihalas, Ph.D.

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How to find joy in life during difficult times

Alexej Von Jawlensky, Natali, 1911, oil on board, 65x49cm, private collection. © Bridgeman Images

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For my twenty-fifth birthday I wore a tiara and a strapless green dress that Blair had recently worn on the TV show Gossip Girl. For dinner I ate all my Italian favorites surrounded by my best girlfriends in a small private room on the Lower East Side with The Godfather (obviously the greatest movie of all time), streaming on the wall in the background. After dinner we danced and flirted with boys and had too many vodka sodas at our favorite spot in Nolita. Everything about that birthday celebration perfectly encapsulated who I was at the time: “carefree NYC girl, who loves her friends, Italian food, cute boys, and a good cocktail.”

The next day also perfectly captured who I was back then: a grieving child whose mother had decided the week prior to stop receiving treatment for the cancer that had most recently camped out comfortably in her brain. The cancer that had so weakened her immune system she spent the prior month battling Tuberculosis. The cancer that we all knew would soon take her life. The next morning we all cheerfully hopped on a train headed north so I could be with my mother for my last birthday with her. We spent the day together in her hospital room while I signed off on her health care proxy forms and ensured, alongside my father, that all of her affairs were in order. Then we went and ate more Italian food.

I have come to realize in the many motherless birthdays following that day that I learned how to hold grief and joy simultaneously: how to laugh and cry in the same 24-hour period and sometimes at the same time, from my mom. In addition to the stage four breast cancer that she battled for nearly three years, she also had Multiple Sclerosis for 12 years. During more than a decade of very serious illness, unfathomable pain, hospital stays, chemotherapy, and wheelchairs, she had a fucking blast. She traveled as much as she could (and as much as we could afford to), she always had her nails done, she hosted—and let me host—a laundry list of parties big and small, and most distinctively, she was always smiling and taking care of others. She was always honest about her pain and her health. And while her poor health did sometimes stop her in her tracks, she was so good at cultivating joy that even when she was once again in a hospital bed, she could still find something to smile about, or someone to befriend.

Right now, we would all do well to emulate my mom: focusing on some impossible balance of cultivating both grief and joy in the midst of so much uncertainty and anxiety. To date, we have lost over 225,000 Americans to COVID-19. When I wrote this article, I was thinking about the millions of families grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one this year—and then my family became one of them. On October 24th, we lost my 35-year-old cousin Ebonee Abby to the novel coronavirus. Ebonee was a fierce spirit who knew how to balance grief and joy as she spent over ten years battling Lupus. The loss of Ebonee has gutted my family, but even in the midst of this loss, from a distance, we are finding ways to bring one another joy. Laughing over old photos and how “extra” Ebonee could be, I know that if we can find things to joke about in the wake of Ebonee’s death, I am confident you can too.

When we are experiencing loss and sadness in our life, everyday can feel like a struggle.

Whether it is recovering from loss of a loved one, divorce, a lay-off, or anything else, we forget to care for ourselves and to find joy at the time when we need it most.

Learning how to reinvent ourselves, establish our independence again, and figure out what we want during this next chapter of our lives is a bit overwhelming. Oftentimes, we may forget to see all the wonderful things that await us.

Often, we get so bogged down with the stress, overwhelm, and emotional roller-coasters that we forget about all the things that we have going for us. But learning to find joy in your life, especially while navigating loss, is an incredible gift that you can give to yourself. And it can be easier than ever when you ask yourself the following.

What amazing things are in your life that you may have overlooked?

We have this unfair expectation that only huge milestones in our lives are worth celebrating. But what about the day-in/day-out struggles that we endure?

We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we have accomplished. Every day that you take control of your life, every day that you learn a little more about managing money and re-entering the workforce, every day that you get a little bit stronger and take care of yourself and put yourself first and realize that you are worthy of getting your confidence back and reclaiming your life is something you should celebrate.

So, what things will you start to celebrate? I’ve listed a few of my own!

  • I choose to celebrate that I am no longer in a relationship that was unhealthy for me.
  • I will celebrate that I am a survivor. I got through this, and now I know I can get through anything.

If you are still having trouble with trying to identify things that bring you joy, don’t worry! Finding joy in your life is the most important step to learning how to heal and move on. It is also the easiest but most critical component of taking care of yourself as you recover from loss. Another way to approaching finding joy can come from asking yourself the following.

What is yours that nobody can take?

Answering this question establishes the solid foundation for celebrating what is good in your life. These answers are simpler than you think. Some of my answers, especially during the hardest times of my divorce, included:

  • Coming home to a clean house — everything just how I left it.
  • The feeling that although I am no longer married, at least I am not in a toxic, unhealthy relationship anymore.
  • Knowing that my dog will always greet me with a wagging tail and sloppy kiss.

Those simple things are ones we usually take for granted, but when you are mindful to the love and beauty that actually surrounds you, just waiting to be acknowledged, you will see dozens of things to be happy about that are right in front of you.

When the world still seems like a disaster, or when you are angry over something that happened today, or you saw something or heard something that triggered you into feeling resentful or grief-stricken, you must do this:

Write down 5 things for which you are grateful

These things do not have to be extravagant. In fact, the simplest of things are usually the best, because they remind us that we are still alive and that we will be okay. Need some inspiration? Take a look at last night’s entry into my own notebook.

  • The new spring weather
  • The smell of fabric softener on clean sheets
  • Hot Epsom salt bath before bed
  • My dog, who is always so playful and silly
  • Homemade delicious olive oil cake after dinner

Do this exercise tonight

I prefer doing this as I am getting ready for bed. After I finish the night rituals but still have a few minutes before I know that I am going to zonk out is when I write these things. It doesn’t really matter when you do it exactly, but I find that doing it at the end of the day is the best way to get closure on any nonsense that has gotten in my space, as well as celebrating any good things that have come my way, too.

Make it as easy as possible for yourself

I keep a medium-sized notebook with a pen on my nightstand, next to my alarm clock. That way, I will see it every night. It can be as simple of a notebook as you want — some people get super-fancy and call them Gratitude Journals. I just call it a lifeline to joy.

A simple habit can change your outlook

This is not a just-one-and-done thing, however. You must make this a habit in order for it to work. Some studies show that it takes 21 days of practice to make something a habit, but you will start to notice the change in your outlook in three days of writing.

You may also see patterns of things for which you are grateful — things that appear in your notebook regularly. It’s not a coincidence. It’s a sign that these are the things in your life that bring you joy, and these are the things you should celebrate. These are the things that, when you are angry or lonely, have the power to center you again and remind you that you have control of your life, that you are strong, and that regardless of where you have been, you will get your life and happiness back.

The joy we seek can be found in God.

There are many verses in Scripture that refer to how God is good to us, especially troubled times. Philippians 4:19 says, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” God never gives us what He knows would harm us. His desire is for us to live. God distinguishes between our wants and our needs, and He is concerned with every part of our being. God provides for us beyond anything we can ask or imagine. He uses the tough times to not only shape but also transform our lives. We can trust His guidance, goodness, and intention to do more for us than we could ever do. There are times when we may doubt His power, but God can see us through all circumstances. Here are six ways to hold onto joy in troubled times.

God is Preparing Us For a Joyful Future

We should see the challenges and trials we face as God’s perfect way of preparing us for a brighter future. When you are going troubled times, God often puts someone in your path to assist you through your trial period by lending you emotional support. Often, these are friends, family, and loved ones, but sometimes God will even place strangers in your life to bring you through tough circumstances. If you close yourself off from the world, it may be hard for you to see that God is putting someone in front of you to help you and working through that person to get you through the situation you’re facing. However, when you open yourself up, this person can guide you out of the pit so that you can experience joy.

This is Only a Trial Period

Going through troubled times can be frustrating. Life can feel unpredictable and out of control during these periods. During this trial period, God can inspire some great ideas to turn your life around. For example, if you are unemployed and stressed, God may inspire you to think of new and creative ways to produce additional income, while also channeling your talents. You can begin by making a list of services needed by people around you and find a way to make yourself useful in those areas. This may be a test by God to humble you, while also helping you to grow. Trusting in God and having a positive mindset will help you think outside of the box and transform your life.

Turn to Scripture

If you happen to be struggling through hard times today, Scripture is an excellent healing place. The words you read can be a great blessing through difficult times. We can find incredible joy when we trust in God’s Word. Scripture can lead us to exactly where we need to be, even during our darkest trials. Sometimes, you can run through Scripture, stop on a passage, and discover that God is speaking through those words. Other times, you can listen to the readings or the pastor’s message on Sunday and hear God speaking to you through those verses. No matter what circumstance you are facing, you can always rest in the fact that God will always be faithful.

Remember the Presence of the Holy Spirit

God’s Spirit is present in all creation and sent out to bring about God’s new creation. First and foremost, the Spirit is God’s presence. You have felt the quiet confirmation in your heart and mind that something was real, and you knew that it was inspiration from God. For some, it may have come during a talk, lesson, or hymn in church. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. You feel peace, hope, and joy when He speaks to your heart and mind that something is true. When you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, darkness can be dispelled, and the desire to do right and transform your thinking grows. When we’re going through troubled times, the key for each of us is to accept and hold the gift God has promised us.

Listen to Words of Encouragement

Sometimes we wake up in the morning, and before our feet even hit the floor, we know the day is careening downhill fast. Life hits us with disappointments, challenges, and heartache. Sometimes, there is no apparent reason – our mood shifts from light-hearted to heavy. In these moments, it feels like joy is absent. When you are going through troubled times, sometimes just hearing encouragement can lift your spirits. It would help if you had some momentum to reframe your thoughts. Often, God puts a person in your path who will say something that catches your heart and makes you feel better about what you are going through. Other times, we will run across words that show up to brighten our day. These are little reminders from God that we are His beautiful children and that He loves us.

Listen to Music

How often have you turned on the radio or a playlist, and a song speaks to you? The song playing right at this moment is not accidental. God’s timing is perfect, and He shows us so much grace and love while we walk through calamity. God will play certain songs at the right time, so you know that He is present and that things will be ok. These moments are wholly unexpected but can brighten our spirits when we are feeling particularly down. Going through hard times can be extremely stressful and seem never-ending, but God works in mysterious ways and provides the spiritual gift of music to some to help people through some of their darkest trials. Music can pull you out of the pit during troubled times.

Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give away and the mountains fall in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” God never says He will provide for your wants, but He clarifies that He will provide for His children’s needs. This is one of the many reasons we can trust God to be there for us, not only when times are good, but also when times are rough. God is faithful, and He knows our every need. God will provide, even in difficult times. The days may be dark now, but God is preparing us for something greater.

How to find joy in life during difficult times

At the beginning of the new year, I find myself wondering, What will this new year bring? Terrorists in Paris recently killed twelve journalists and grieved a watching world; North Korea may soon have a long range nuclear warhead that can reach the United States. Can we find joy despite the nightly dose of bad tidings from the news commentators and despite anything negative that might be happening in our lives? My friend, Julia, has lived with a burden for years and has learned how to be joyful regardless of circumstances. Whenever I need to replace any gloom that creeps its way into my mind, I think of her.

Julia lives in constant pain. She suffers from a degenerative back disease, and though she has had several surgeries and takes medications daily, she is never pain free. Despite the crippling effect of the pain, she radiates joy.

“So, Julia,” I asked her, “How do you stay joyful in spite of your pain?”

She rattles off rules that she lives by: “Don’t pretend you have it all together; turn every day over to God; keep priorities in order.”

As she continues, I’m amazed at the wisdom and grace God has given this dear friend. Here are three principles Julia shared:

1. Joy is a choice

”Choose joy,” Julia says. “Happiness is based on our circumstances; joy is a choice we make regardless of our circumstances. The word happiness comes from the same root as the word ‘happening,’ meaning happiness is based on something happening to us. Happiness is circumstantial. Joy, on the other hand is something which defies circumstances and occurs in spite of difficult situations. Whereas happiness is a feeling, joy is an attitude – a posture. A position. A place.”

Julia goes on to note that pain is inevitable but misery is optional. “God will let you be as miserable as you want to be for as long as you want to be.” She has a hard and fast rule that all pity parties are limited to forty five minutes. Then, it’s so much for misery and back to joy.

2. Find peace inside of the pain through gratitude

“I have prayed for healing more times than I can count,” says Julia. “God finally healed me of the need to be healed.”

Julia found an acceptance of her situation that allows her to be at peace with herself and with God. “I often thank God for what I don’t have,” she says. “I don’t have cancer, or heart disease, or ALS. One of my friends suffers as I do, and she reminds me, ‘We’re not going to die; it’s just a mechanical problem.’”

In a survey of over 5,000 people taken by Michael Zigarelli, the dean of the business school at Regent University, comparing Christians who are consistently joyful with those who have less joy, he found that gratitude spawns joy. Grateful people are incessantly focused on what they have, not what they don’t have. By not focusing on what’s missing, they find joy in the blessings they are constantly counting.

3. Focus on being, not doing

Julia shares how she volunteered in a prison ministry and in children’s puppet ministries as a young mother. Her vivacious, fun-loving personality enabled her to reach otherwise unreachable people. “I thought when Spencer (her husband) retired I’d have more time to get out and do volunteer work, but now I’m housebound, confined to the bed most days. I’ve had to learn to focus more on being than doing because I can’t do anymore.”

We’re all pretty well versed in doing, aren’t we? Being is something we don’t do too well unless we have no choice. I remember a story I heard about an elderly gentleman whose son came over once a week to help him. The son mowed his grass, trimmed his shrubs, did his grocery shopping, and cleaned his house. One day when the son had finished all the chores, he asked his dad, “Dad, what else can I do for you?”

The dad, with tears in his eyes, said, “Son, all I want you to do is just sit down and be with me.”

I can imagine God, pained by our service keeping us too busy to just sit down and be with him. For Julia, most of the “busyness” has been eliminated just because of her physical condition. She realizes her life is less cluttered with more room to be with God – she can be rather than do, and being with God brings her joy.

One pastor, Dan Grubbs, expressed it well, “Many people say that humans need diversions to live a healthy, balanced life. I think we’ve deluded ourselves into believing this because we haven’t fully experienced the true joy of a close walk with God. We are created to worship God and enjoy ourselves in that relationship. This relationship is what fulfills us. This relationship is what brings us joy. There’s nothing like experiencing the joy from replacing secular activities with spiritual ones.”

Julia has learned that joy is independent of our circumstances, and we can choose it regardless of what we are experiencing. Another great Christian, the Apostle Paul, echoes this truth. Writing to the Church at Philippi from his prison cell as he awaited trial in Rome, not knowing whether he would be condemned to death or set free, he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always – I will say it again: rejoice! I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

Zoe Hicks is an author, motivational speaker, and attorney. She serves on several non-profit boards and is a volunteer for Street Grace, a faith-based ministry whose mission is to prevent and eliminate domestic minor sex trafficking. Zoe’s latest book is entitled Dancing in the Rain: True Stories of Finding Strength to Survive and Grace to Thrive in the Storms of Life. Zoe makes her home in Atlanta, Georgia with husband, Charles. Visit www.ZoeHicks.com for more information.

Publication date: January 29, 2015

There’s still hope, and these simple tactics will help you find it again.

How to find joy in life during difficult times

How to find joy in life during difficult times

Close your eyes and picture it for a moment: pure joy. It could be sitting in the sun on a warm day, basking in the knowledge that your grown kids are on their way to visit. Or, it could be just the opposite: Finally, a moment of peace and quiet in the house after a chaotic week. Joy can seem fleeting—rare, even—but there are ways to get closer to joy on a daily basis.

Lots of people confuse joy with happiness, and although they are closely related and often occur simultaneously, these feel-good emotions aren’t synonymous. Happiness is an emotion that brings bursts of intense pleasure, excitement, and satisfaction, while joyfulness is a stronger, longer-term state that results in feelings of inner peace and contentment.

“Whereas happiness can be easily manufactured, joy comes through setting up the right conditions for it to suddenly appear,” says Forrest Talley, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in California. “Happiness can be brought about by a good cup of coffee in the morning or a funny movie. Joy, on the other hand, is more difficult to cultivate.” It’s an ongoing process that takes time.

And yet, it’s worth it because of all the health benefits you get along the way. “Numerous studies suggest happiness and joy predict lower heart rate and blood pressure, as well as stronger immune systems,” says Susan Damico, M.A. director at the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. “Additionally, individuals who report having more positive emotions also have fewer illnesses, including minor aches and pains.” Finding joy also leads to longer life spans, Talley says. Research published in Journal of Happiness Studies found that happier individuals tended to live longer in 53% of the cases.

Below, you’ll find expert- and science-backed ways to add more joy to your life—starting now:

We don’t have to be miserable, frustrated and unhappy in difficult places. If you and I have been in the world very long, we’ve learned there are very few days that go exactly the way we’d like them to go. There always seem to be different things happening that can affect our plans. Until we learn that our joy can’t be based on our circumstances, we’re going to have nothing but what I call a “yo-yo” experience, which is up and down, up and down, up and down. We have to find a way to stay happy, even when our circumstances don’t suit us or we don’t get a breakthrough as quickly as we’d like—or when people around us aren’t what we’d like them to be or they’re frustrating us or there’s disappointment.

God is never going to put us into a situation or permit us to be in one, without giving us the ability to be in it with joy. I believe God makes His grace available to us each and every day. If God asks us to stay in a situation, then He is going to give us a special grace, for a special season, to experience His peace and joy despite the circumstances. It’s the kind of grace that causes other people to look at us and think, I’m just amazed you are able to do this and still have so much joy and peace. This is how it should be instead of us telling them that we just don’t think we can make it.

Let Your Attitude Speak

As Christians, I believe the attitude we live with and the level of joy, peace and stability seen in our life is what will speak to the people around us much more than if we try to preach to them. It’s about how we live our life in front of them, especially when things are not going perfectly for us all the time.

For people in places right now who are saying, “I’m staying in the situation because I believe it’s what God wants me to do, but I’m so miserable, frustrated and unhappy,” there’s good news. The good news is that God has provided a way for us to deal with frustration—His grace. I know many times we hear that grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense, and that’s a good definition. But to be honest, it’s just a little bit too spiritual for me. I need something that’s going to put it into a practical format for me. I like to define grace as “God’s power to help us do whatever it is we need to do.”

Receive Power Through God’s Grace

Grace is power. It’s power, power, power! It’s God’s power we receive by the grace of God through faith. Everything comes to us through faith, which God also gives us.

Romans 12:3 says, . God has allotted to each a measure of faith (NASB). We need to ask ourselves, What am I doing with my faith? Are we putting our faith in ourselves? Are we trying to fix things ourselves by trying to change ourselves or our family? Or trying to get our boss’s attention so we can make more money and get a promotion? If so, that’s not grace. It’s our own works.

But when we release our faith and trust God to do what we can’t do, we’re putting our faith in Him. Then the grace—which is God’s power—comes through the channel of faith and enables us to do what will just amaze us and other people.

Here’s my longer definition of grace: It’s God’s power coming to us freely—meaning it doesn’t cost us anything other than just putting our faith in God, enabling us to do with ease what we could never do on our own with any amount of struggle and effort.

Rely on God

I believe every time we feel frustration, it means we’ve really stopped relying on God, leaning on Him, and receiving His grace and are trying to make something happen our own way. Understanding this really helped me see that I spent a lot of time being frustrated. To help myself, I had some signs made to put up around my house that said things like, “Works of the flesh equal frustration.” Every time I became frustrated, the signs helped me remember I had tried to become Holy Spirit Junior. When I try to work things out on my own, in essence I’m saying, “Okay, God, I appreciate You being around, but watch me do this.”

Most of us have a problem with an independent spirit. We have difficulty depending on God for everything. Grace is not only the power for salvation; it’s the victory we need every single day of our life.

In Galatians 2, the Bible says that if we receive salvation by grace, we shouldn’t think we’re going to reach perfection by depending on our flesh. It’s like thinking that God saves us and helps us when we’re at the end of ourselves and ready to give up, then just kind of throws us the ball and says, “Okay, now you go make the touchdown.”

Keep Walking

The same way we receive Christ is the same way we are supposed to live each day of our life—in total, complete dependence on Him. Grace is like light. But what we tend to do a lot of the time is fight with darkness, when all we need to do is just run to the light. What’s the purpose of gathering in the dark, banging into each other, struggling with the darkness and trying to punch it out, when all we have to do is turn on a switch? The minute the light comes on, it swallows up the darkness.

Too often we struggle with ourselves and our weaknesses, trying to change, spending time being mad about things in our life. But what we really need to do is just get more light into the situation.

Galatians 5:16 (AMPC) urges us to walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit. then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh. Notice how it doesn’t say “conquer the flesh so you can walk in the Spirit.”

What we need to do is walk in the Spirit. When we concentrate on walking in the Spirit, we won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh because we will be focused on God, His goodness, our relationship with Him, and His love for us. Other things will just dissipate because of the power of God in our life. Grace is power—plain and simple. It’s the power of God available to us in whatever amount we need.

How can we pray for you?

God wants to meet your needs and reveal His promises to you. So whatever you’re concerned about and need prayer for—we are here for you!

There’s still hope, and these simple tactics will help you find it again.

How to find joy in life during difficult times

How to find joy in life during difficult times

Close your eyes and picture it for a moment: pure joy. It could be sitting in the sun on a warm day, basking in the knowledge that your grown kids are on their way to visit. Or, it could be just the opposite: Finally, a moment of peace and quiet in the house after a chaotic week. Joy can seem fleeting—rare, even—but there are ways to get closer to joy on a daily basis.

Lots of people confuse joy with happiness, and although they are closely related and often occur simultaneously, these feel-good emotions aren’t synonymous. Happiness is an emotion that brings bursts of intense pleasure, excitement, and satisfaction, while joyfulness is a stronger, longer-term state that results in feelings of inner peace and contentment.

“Whereas happiness can be easily manufactured, joy comes through setting up the right conditions for it to suddenly appear,” says Forrest Talley, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in California. “Happiness can be brought about by a good cup of coffee in the morning or a funny movie. Joy, on the other hand, is more difficult to cultivate.” It’s an ongoing process that takes time.

And yet, it’s worth it because of all the health benefits you get along the way. “Numerous studies suggest happiness and joy predict lower heart rate and blood pressure, as well as stronger immune systems,” says Susan Damico, M.A. director at the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. “Additionally, individuals who report having more positive emotions also have fewer illnesses, including minor aches and pains.” Finding joy also leads to longer life spans, Talley says. Research published in Journal of Happiness Studies found that happier individuals tended to live longer in 53% of the cases.

Below, you’ll find expert- and science-backed ways to add more joy to your life—starting now: