Have you ever struggled with finding joy when things are tough?
One of the hardest parts of walking through a painful struggle is the expectation that we are to remain put together and happy.
I’ve become proficient at making others believe I’m happy when in fact, I’m struggling with something in a big way. And I’m guessing you’re pretty good at it too.
We spend so much time expecting people to be happy and okay that we don’t know how to deal with those who aren’t. And in the midst of this cycle, we forget that we aren’t called to be happy or put together.
We are called to radical love and genuine joy.
Maybe, like me, you are struggling with something really tough right now. Or maybe you can think to a time when you were. When happiness wasn’t exactly filling your every day and every moment.
What are we called to do when we are struggling like this? Does joy mean putting on a smile when you really want to cry? Does it mean that we should “fake it til we make it”?
Finding joy when you don’t feel happy is possible. Today, we are going to dive into what joy really means and how to live it out in the midst of a time where you don’t feel happy.
The Fruit of Joy
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit within you.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. -Galatians 5:22-23
The Holy Spirit inside you is working to produce these fruits. As you grow in your faith and grow more intimate with the Spirit, joy will result.
Joy is not something we can muster up or fabricate. It isn’t something we can force or guilt our way into.
In fact, the more we try to create our own joy, the further we get from true and genuine joy.
True joy is a work of the Spirit and results through the process of surrender and sanctification.
This does not mean that you can sit back and wait for the Holy Spirit to magically produce joy.
The Choice of Joy
Joy is a choice you must make daily.
It requires the choice to surrender your will and desires and hope in the Lord.
This will look different to each person and different each day. Sometimes, I have to choose to walk forward in trust and surrender even though the path is painful and hard. But as I surrender to God, the fruit of joy will result.
When you surrender your desires and truly learn to desire God’s will and fully trust that His plan for you is good, you can walk through any trial or painful experience with joy.
Rejoice in Suffering
Paul approaches this idea in Romans and James repeats the same thing.
How often do we act to avoid suffering? How much of our time, energy and worry goes towards attempts to avoid painful trials?
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. -Romans 5:3-5
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
To the world, this concept is crazy. Why would anyone rejoice in trials? What kind of person invites takes joy in suffering?
But there is such hope in these verses.
The experience of suffering results in hope because it matures and strengthens our faith. And when we experience a mature and strong faith we can be assured of our hope in Christ.
When you suffer and choose joy, you will develop a perseverance and strength that will bring your faith to completion. When you choose joy in suffering, you will experience hope beyond understanding.
So How Do You Choose Joy?
We’ve talked about why you should choose joy, but let’s look at some practical ways to choose joy when you don’t feel happy.
1. Say a prayer of surrender.
Ask the Lord to work in your heart to help you trust Him and to desire His will above all else. As you learn to do this, you will find joy.
2. Choose not to dwell on negative thoughts.
Fill your mind with only what is good and pure. (Philippians 4:4-9) In doing this, you close the door to Satan’s attempts to pull you away from joy.
3. Say it out loud.
Proclaim the truth. Find Scriptures that speak of joy and rejoicing and post them around your house. There is power in speaking God’s word out loud. There is power in calling on the name of Jesus when you are struggling.
4. Don’t rely on your emotions.
It’s okay if you feel sad and feel discouraged. Remember that feelings will come and go. Feelings are temporary. But rely on the One who remains the same. Rely on the promises of God no matter how you are feeling.
As you work to choose joy and surrender in the midst of your struggles, the Holy Spirit will grow in you the fruit of joy.
So the next time you are struggling, don’t be afraid to be real with your pain. Don’t be afraid to feel sad or discouraged. But don’t remain in those feelings. Open your heart to the Lord in your pain and you will experience true and genuine joy.
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