faith, fruit of the spirit, joy

How to Find Joy When You Can’t

I have a confession. Most of the time, I’m a joyful person, but I have my days. And when those days come, I cannot make myself choose joy. It’s a really popular saying right now. Many would prove it biblical, but it’s not always possible in my experience.

I’ve tried. In fact, trying to force myself to be joyful made me even more joyless. Am I a bad Christian? Some might say yes. Paul did write, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice!” Yet, joy is easier for some than others. Personality affects our joy meter. So, if you need help finding joy, the first step is to give yourself grace.

woman walking on beach

1. Give Yourself Grace

Some of us “do” joy easier than others. Do you know those people? Do you long to be like them, or do you duck around the corner when they’re walking your way? The fact is our personalities and our life experiences affect our ability to be joyful, so you and I aren’t bad Christians. We are wired differently.

If joy is hard for you, I pray this blog post will let you know you’re not alone. I hope this will help you rest in grace. I will be writing about ‘wrestling’ for joy in a little bit, but first, please rest in grace. There is no judgment here because I get you! I can relate to the struggle.

This is where Jesus meets us too. He offers His grace, but He also offers growth and healing. He loves us too much to let us stay in our muck. Rest in grace and then move on to the next steps to joy. That second step involves uncovering the causes for your lack of joy.

2. Uncover the Causes

When a heaviness comes upon you and each day comes with dread or sadness, ask why. Uncovering the causes for our joyless days or seasons can help us fight back. These are my triggers in this season that take away my joy:

  • Comparison
  • Grief
  • Anxiety
  • Cloudy days (I need sun!)

When my kids were young, loneliness, lack of sleep, and the day after day monotony of crying babies and Sesame Street gave me the mommy blues. I do remember one day finding my joy returning after my kids had started sleeping better. (Sleep deprivation is a real thing!) But comparison and loneliness could get me every time. Even after getting sleep, those snarky voices would haunt me telling me I was a bum. I was hidden. I was a terrible mom.

Though shaping the next generation held eternal purpose, joy wasn’t always easy to keep. I had to fight for it. I couldn’t force it, but I could fight.

Knowing the cause behind our sadness gives us artillery in our fight. It helps us know how to pray. In my experience, when I can put my finger on the trigger, I know what I need to surrender to the Lord.

Woman Praying

3. Surrender the Trigger

Here’s the thing: God cannot (or will not) heal what we’re still clutching to our chest. The only way to find release and joy is to lay down the triggers. Surrender:

  • The thing you’re losing your mind over because the numbers or the details aren’t coming together.
  • The loss of the marriage, the job, the loved one who no amount of sorrow and sadness can replace.
  • The desire to be as beautiful, talented, successful, cool ,____________ as that person who really has her own issues too. Comparison is a thief. Be you– your wonderful, delightfully different and beautiful you. God has different wonderful, purposeful plans for you.

It may take a few days. But if you truly want God’s best for you (which includes His joy), be willing and determined to give that trigger to Him. There are several things I do to help me surrender.

4. Pray/Journal to Joy

Some of you just groaned. You’ve been praying, but nothing is changing. You’ve asked for joy, but it’s still illusive to your heart. I hear you. I know you. So, here’s some specific things to pray:

  • Pray for forgiveness. Repent of the trigger. Repenting includes confession, but it also means to change the way we think.
  • Ask the Lord to reveal the lie you’ve been holding onto that has stolen your joy. Ask Him to change the way you think.
  • Write down your sorrow, your triggers, and your prayers. Then close the book and give it to God. After all that gunk is out, you’re ready to worship.

5. Worship with Others

Worship and thankfulness are like water to a wilting flower, but I know that doing it alone doesn’t always turn the tide. Worship with others. Go to church. Worship loudly with a whole lot of people. Ask your friends to hold up your arms if you need to (literally!) I can’t force joy, but I can choose to worship and start claiming all the good things God has done. Worshiping all by yourself is great, but if it’s not doing the trick, you’ve got to go worship with others. Worship is warfare. After you’ve done all these things, if joy still hides in the shadows, it’s time to wrestle.

Woman sitting on beach

6. Wrestle Like Jacob for Joy

Have you read the mysterious story of Jacob wrestling the Angel of God? It’s in my top ten of favorites. Jacob was returning home. God had given him great wealth, two wives, twelve sons, and a ton of livestock. But as they traveled closer to home, Jacob became fearful for good reason. He had stolen his brothers blessing years before. Esau had become enraged and threatened his life. He hated his little brother. There was a good chance he still wanted revenge.

So before the day Jacob would meet his estranged and angry brother, he sent everyone away, and he stayed up all night wrestling.

….This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

Genesis 32: 22-27

The rest of the story leaves Jacob with a new name, a limp, and the blessing he desired. Some might say it’s not good to wrestle with God because you may not walk the same way ever again, but I disagree. I would rather walk with a limp than never get so close to God I can feel His presence and sweat. I can’t say that I’ve experienced a literal manifestation of God in my living room, but I have been up in the middle of the night, all alone, praying and reading scripture, wrestling with God for the blessing of joy.

This is real. I wrestled just the other night. The weight of a worry had burdened me and stole joy for days. I couldn’t stop thinking of different scenarios, crunching numbers, trying to figure out the solution on my own, but my head hurt and I felt physically ill, and I knew I HAD to surrender it and fight for the blessing. Actually, I was fighting for the blessing of a deeper and stronger faith.

Faith Produces Joy

A better word for faith is trust. A life lived without trusting God’s goodness, faithfulness, and power is a joyless life. Wrestle for greater faith, and you will find joy. Wrestle in His Word, and you will find joy. This month’s reading plan is a great place to start. I’ve chosen 31 verses and written 31 prompts for us to dig into all God’s wisdom about joy.

You can print the pretty printable above with the list of scriptures and tuck it into your Bible to read each morning, or you can download the reading plan printable/journal with the verses and prompts to help apply each verse. Each day has the scripture, prompt, and lines to journal your thoughts and prayers. Click here to get the Joy Journal.

Proven Strategy to Joy for Me

This is what helps me. I believe with all my heart, these steps can help you too. I can’t offer a money-back guarantee (but you haven’t paid me anything anyway.) If these steps don’t help you, remember my very first step, grace. I also want to encourage you to reach out to a counselor. Depression is real. Please ask for help if joyless days have become your new normal or are your old normal, and you can’t work through to joy. I am praying for you. I’d love to pray for you by name, so please leave a comment or contact me if you’d like me to pray specifically for you.

Ya’ll, He’s good. The Fruit of His Spirit is joy (and 8 other good things.) Trust Him. He wants you to have joy flowing out of you. Surrender your triggers, do the steps, and let His Spirit take over.

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8 Comments

  1. Tori

    So good, thank you for this! This new season of sleep deprivation/mommahood has brought new ups and downs. I could use prayer please!
    Will be printing off these scriptures to go through!!

    1. Oh, girl! Those days are so crazy! I will be praying for you. Give yourself lots of grace! (And call me if you need me.)

  2. So good, Andy. Love these verses. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Penny! I pray you are blessed each day as you soak in them. You are a blessing to so many.

  3. Karen Case

    God’s timing is perfect! Thank you, Andy, for this insightful and practical approach to finding and/or fighting for joy! I need prayer to let go of a specific trigger that is robbing me of joy right now. Why is it so hard to let go of something hurtful? You are such a beautiful witness of God’s grace – thank you so much.
    Karen

  4. Elizabeth (Beth) Willis

    Oh Andy…I cried myself to sleep while reading your JOY post. Tears of gratefulness because my Father God loves me enough to send me someone who can heal my “lacks”. I am always one step too late. One word said at the wrong time. One everything messed up. I thank God for you and count your writings in my 1-5 top blessings❣️How precious you are😘
    Beth

  5. Wonderful tips! I’m printing this off as a reminder.

    1. Thanks, Sandy! So glad this was helpful for you!

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