How can Christians cultivate joy in the midst of hardship?

Written by Molly Stillman
Published on October 22, 2021

Raise your hand (or give me a raised hand emoji) if you’ve felt like you’ve been fighting the fight to find the joy in this season right now? Just me? 

A wise friend shared with me a few months ago something that has been absolutely transformative for me—she shared, “The enemy knows that in the end, he loses. But, he knows that he can come for your joy. So, every day, just pray, ‘Lord, today I retain my birthright to joy.’”  

Joy is a gift

I want to say right off the bat: There’s a big difference between “happiness” and “joy.” Happiness is fleeting, and it can even often be self-serving. 

Joy is a gift, it is a fruit of the Spirit, and it comes directly from the Lord. Joy is something that is found deep within us. We can feel joy even in the midst of pain, suffering, trials, and tribulations. 

“Consider it a great joy my dear brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4).

Even the apostle James tells us that we are to be joyful when we experience trials because we know that those trials are going to produce something beautiful in us and can and will be used for God’s glory. 

3 ways to find joy today

But let’s be honest—finding joy can be really hard. Working to “consider that great joy” in the midst of our trials is, in fact, work. So what are we to do? How do we practically take the time to be intentional about letting joy come in and permeate our hearts, minds, and souls? 

1. Get into God’s word.  

This cannot be emphasized enough. The Bible is God’s love letter to us and it is our nourishment, it is our lifeline, and it is our ultimate source of joy in the midst of pain. And here’s the thing: when it feels hard or nearly impossible to open up your bible, that is when you most need to do it. 

This isn’t always easy for me, but there’s never been a time where I’ve finished spending time with God and thought to myself, “Man, that was a waste of time.” Quite literally, every single time I spend time with God (even if it’s just for a couple of minutes!) I walk away feeling a sense of lightness and refreshment.  

Sometimes getting into his Word can look like listening to the bible or even singing worship songs or hymns. Get into a time where you can be quiet and hear from God. 

2. Find a way to serve others. 

Jesus himself said the most important commandment was to love God and to love others. And one of the greatest ways we can show our love for God is by the way we show our love for others. 

Additionally, one of the ways I find when I am the most joy-filled is when I shift the focus off of myself and onto others. 

Not only does God’s Word encourage us (really, command us) to serve others, but research actually supports this! There was a recent study done that says, “people who volunteered more frequently experienced greater benefits: Those who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than participants who volunteered infrequently or not at all.” 

People who serve are actually more joyful.  If you are able, find ways that you can safely get out and serve in your community. A lot of nonprofit organizations doing work in your community need the extra help right now and might feel the strain of a loss of volunteers, loss of revenue, or a lack of engagement.  

And most importantly, find ways to serve with your children! Serving your actual neighbors in your neighborhood by running errands for an elderly or immunocompromised family, mowing someone’s lawn, or even something as simple as baking some cookies for a neighbor just to bring a smile to their face. 

If physically getting out in the community is tough for you right now, try writing a note to a loved one, doing some clerical work for a nonprofit, or writing a letter to a service member overseas. Serve. 

3. Last but not least, create a joy + gratitude journal.  

It can be so easy to focus on the negative and difficult things around us these days. We are inundated with “bad news” which feels like 24/7. 

By taking the time to sit down and intentionally write out the things that you are grateful for and the things that bring you joy, begins the process of essentially rewiring your brain to focus on the good news in your life.  

Whether it’s a “notes” app note in your phone, a little notepad on your nightstand, or actually buying a physical journal for you to log these things in—the intentionality is what really matters. Additionally, when we go back and we look at the list we’ve created, we are able to reflect on God’s goodness and his mercy and blessings in our lives in big and small ways.  

Some days it might feel harder to write that list and, on those days, I typically write that I am thankful for the breath in my lungs and that the good Lord woke me up today and, of course, that I’m thankful for my salvation and hope that I have in him!  

Your list some days might be a mile long, and some days might only be a couple of things. But the habit and practice of writing your joys and gratitudes down regularly is the key. 

There are certainly many other ways that you can cultivate joy in your life during a season and a time such as this—these are just some of the ways that have helped me, personally, during this time!

What ways do you fight for joy when it seems the hardest?

Consider a few extra resources:

Survival Mode

Growing Up Grateful

These Are Some Good Times

Live perfectly imperfect

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Molly Stillman

Molly Stillman is the founder and creator of Still Being Molly, a life-and-style blog started in 2007. She is also the host of The Business with Purpose podcast. Her true passion lies in helping inspire women to know that they were created on purpose, with a purpose, and for a purpose. She is a wife to John, mama to Lilly and Amos, dog mom to Tater and Audrey, a loud laugher, lover of Jesus, Diet Coke, and all of the Chipotle burritos.

Read more about Molly

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