When You Can’t Choose Joy

I was raw a few weeks ago. Sad. Lonely. Struggling with life. We all have our days, don’t we? Those moments when we can cry at the slightest mistake, unkind word, or challenge.

During that raw week, I kept hearing the saying choose joy! It’s popular these days. I’ve probably taught it myself, but to be very honest, I couldn’t choose joy. It actually made me mad. (Just being real here.) I came to the conclusion that joy really isn’t something you can muster up if you try hard enough because joy comes from a source deep within. It can’t be faked.

Grace When You Can’t Muster Joy

I was frustrated with myself, angry at the whole “choose joy” mantra, but the awesome thing about those hard days is they send me to my knees. I have some serious heart to heart talks with the Lord, and that is always where I find His grace.

“There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” Romans 8:1.

I’m so thankful we live under the law of the Spirit of life. God no longer opens up the earth to swallow grumblers like in the Old Testament when the Israelites were constantly complaining and facing God’s wrath. Unlike the Israelites, God did not reprimand me or send a plague. (Thank you Jesus.) As I poured out my struggle and prayed for His Spirit to help me, I began to realize the things I can choose.

2 Things I Can Choose that Lead to Joy

  • Trust: I can choose to trust Him. This is difficult if our perspective of God is still filtered through the Old Testament wrath, but we can’t stay in the OT. We’ve got to move on to Jesus and the other side of the Cross. We’re no longer under the law of sin and death. There have been seasons of grief when I’ve had to choose to believe in God’s goodness, and that has freed me to trust Him. I’ve known this lesson, but I’m learning it again. I must trust He has me where He wants me, and I’m going through what I’m going through for good purposes. Just because something is hard does not mean it’s not God and good.

“For God works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.

  • Thankfulness: I searched for scriptures that command us to choose joy, but what I kept finding were verses about being thankful. I may not be able to force joy to bubble out of me, but I can choose to be thankful. It is a choice everyday to be thankful for our jobs, relationships, church, home, weather . . .being thankful can turn our hearts of sadness to hearts of joy.

You’re Not Alone

Maybe you’ve had trouble in the joy department too. Maybe you’ve felt like I did, angry and frustrated, feeling like a Christian failure because life had sucked all joy out of you. If so, I hope knowing that other believers struggle with this popular saying will give you the grace you need to stop trying to force joy. Rather than praying for joy, let’s pray for a greater measure of trust and thankfulness.

open bible

Bible Reading Plan for a Heart that Needs Joy

Day 1: Psalm 51: 10-13

Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Prompt: I love the Psalms because they are great to use in prayer when you can’t find the words to pray. This is a great one. It’s a prayer to go back to those first days when we fell in love with Jesus, those days when He was our joy. But it’s also a prayer for that inner strength we need to keep on keepin’ on during the hard days—the joy-less days when we want to quit. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. We’ve got to be filled with Him to have that pure joy. Make these verses your prayer for the week. Journal it!

Day 2: Romans 2: 4

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Grab the Printable of this Reading Plan

Prompt: It’s hard to trust God’s kindness when we’re going through hard days, but He is kind, patient, and good. That kindness is revealed in Jesus. It’s good to confess our lack of joy to God. That’s part of repentance, but the other part is changing our thought pattern. That’s the meaning of “repent.” Write a prayer confessing your lack of joy and asking God to show you the blessings in your life.

Day 3: Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Prompt: Thankfulness is a choice. There is always something to be thankful for. Always. Even the job you don’t like, or the difficult marriage, or the crying child, these all have something good in them that God can use. Write down what you’re thankful for.

Day 4: Mark 9: 23-24

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Prompt: The Greek word for “believe” is pistis. This word also means to trust. I’ve talked about choosing to trust God in the hard circumstances. Sometimes we have to pray a prayer like this father did. Jesus told him that everything is possible for people who trust His power and wisdom. Everything is possible, even our joy. Write a prayer asking for God to help you overcome your distrust of Him.

Day 5: Lamentation 3: 22-23

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Prompt: Hold onto this verse when it seems everything is going wrong and joy is MIA. Ask Him to help you experience His love for you every morning. Close your eyes and wait for Him as long as you can. Write down what you hear if you have time.

Don’t forget the printable to use during your quiet time.

Join Me For Midweek Soul Food

Join me on Facebook Wednesday night at 7:30 PM ET for some middle of the week soul nourishment! I’m giving a book away this week. Just go to my FB timeline and share last week’s FB Live video on Hearing God’s Voice to be entered into the drawing to win The Sacred Journey: God’s Relentless Pursuit of our Affection (The Passion Translation), by Brian and Candice Simmons.

2 Other Ways to Enter to Win!

  • Leave a comment on your thoughts about choosing joy. I’ll add you to the drawing!
  • Subscribe to receive weekly posts if you haven’t already. You’ll not only be entered to win The Sacred Journey, but you’ll also get a free PDF of my 22 day devotional, Finding the Beauty-full in God’s Word, a devotional on Psalm 119.

Have a great week my friends! Choose trust and thankfulness, and let me know if it helps in the joy department.

Digging Deep,



  1. […] You won’t be able to surrender the plan until you trust His goodness which my friends is simply a choice. It’s a prayer away. […]

  2. Valerie Foster

    Thanks, dear friend. I’m clinging to trust for loved ones and friends who are struggling. I am thankful and trust you are able to “choose joy” again! Thank you for your words of wisdom!

    1. Love to hear from you Valerie! I miss you! Thank you for your prayers!

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Andy. I appreciate your honesty so much. Since losing my Dad, it’s been really hard to stay above water. And trust is something I’ve been wrestling with, but I know it’s a choice as is thankfulness. Thank you for your transparency.

    1. Oh friend, I know how hard losing somebody you love is. I’m so sorry. I’ll be praying for you to get back to the place of trusting God’s goodness. Much love! You’re entered.

  4. Diane

    Andy, Thank you so much for sharing your struggles! I have felt this way too, and then the guilt sets in because I feel like I shouldn’t feel that way, ever. I think if only I could be like Andy or (fill in the blank), I wouldn’t have these feelings. Thank you so much for reminding me that it’s okay to have those feelings, it’s what I do with them when I get them that makes the difference! I’ve got so much to be thankful for! Love you, Andy!

    1. Diane! You are such a testimony of God’s Grace! You’re Faith is amazing! Praying for you! You’re entered into the drawing! XXOO

  5. I love the psalms to pray through the hard times too. I especially love the ones where the author is raw and angry or anguished. I’m so grateful God included these in His Word not only to give us expression, but also to let us know it’s okay to bring all those feelings to Him.

    1. Isn’t it great! I love it. Great to hear from you Kirsten! I’ll enter you into the drawing. You would love the book!

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