When was the last time you rejoiced?
In a recent survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, 27% of Americans reported frequent symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In 2020, just over half of adults across 27 countries claimed to be “happy,” with 55% percent identifying their physical well-being as their “key” to happiness.
What about those whose health is failing? Who have lost a loved one? Who are worn down by the ongoing pandemic, state of our nation’s schools, or decline of society’s moral standards?
How can we possibly rejoice with all of this going on?
In today’s post, I’m sharing 5 ways to rediscover joy and cultivate a grateful heart, regardless of your circumstances.
Shifting our focus doesn’t mean we should ignore our problems, but rather choose to trust that God has a purpose in them and carefully select where we focus.
Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us Jesus saw joy set before him, even as he awaited the cross because he knew the outcome. He knew that His suffering was part of God’s plan and that it was not the end of the story.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
God doesn’t expect us to have joy in response to the trials themselves, but in knowing the outcome. Just as women endure the pain of childbirth because they know the joy of motherhood lies on the other side, we can experience The Gift of Joy in hardship because we know eternal life with Jesus exists on the other side. The joy of our salvation is an anchor to our soul and a reminder that our earthly trials are temporary.
Just like exercising and reading the Bible, recapturing joy starts with a decision. Not a decision to feel joy (if only it were that easy), but a decision to focus on things that are “true, right, pure, lovely, and admirable” so we can enter into a new frame of mind (Philippians 4:8).
2. READ THE WORD
How do we focus on things that are true?
We immerse ourselves in the Word of God.
Being in the Word is essential to renewing our minds so we can fix our thoughts on eternal things rather than get caught up in the cares of this world. This Tuesday, I’m talking with author, speaker, and storyteller, Keith Ferrin, about the impact of reading the Bible on finding peace, hope, and perseverance. I’ll also share tips for helping you look forward to reading your Bible and growing in your faith.
In the words of Charles Spurgeon, the Bible is “the one book that studied, not scampered through…shall (enable us to) stand firm where others fall.”
3. SERVE OTHERS
We’ve all heard the expression that our greatest ministries come out of our deepest hurt or pain.
Our trials are not solely intended to shape us—they’re intended to minister to others so they too can discover the hope, healing, and “hidden treasures” given to us by God in our darkest, more difficult times (Isaiah 45:3).
Paul didn’t waste his prison sentence wallowing in pity—he productively used it to write nearly half the New Testament—and he found joy in doing so! Being in prison didn’t bring Him joy, but knowing the Gospel was still being preached, people were still becoming believers, and God was being honored did!
Paul rejoiced because he saw the power of his pain to drive God’s message forward. Regardless of his circumstances, Paul committed to living out the truth of the Risen Christ and serving others however he could.
What are some ways you can shift your focus off your own problems to helping others in theirs? I think you’ll find not only are you tremendously blessed, but there is joy is using your gifts to serve.
4. SEEK GOD
The Bible tells us fullness of joy is found in God’s presence (Psalm 16:11).
If you are struggling to find joy, consider asking yourself this question: How’s my quiet time?
Are you sitting at His feet and listening for His voice? Or, are you worried and distracted by many things?
Sometimes when we feel like we’re chasing joy the best thing we can do is stop running and be still.
Establish a regular quiet time. Turn off your television, radio, podcast, or YouTube video (excluding my interview with Keith on Tuesday, of course ;)).
Detox from Technology.
If you still find it difficult to rejoice, ask Jesus to help lighten your load—He promises to do (Matthew 11:28-30).
Engage in Christian community through church or a small group—they will help you carry your burdens (Galatians 6:2).
Remember that God doesn’t always give us what we want, but He gives us what we need. We can find joy in being set free from our expectations and detached from worldly possessions to receive what God has for us. His plan is perfect, His Word never returns void, and His love never fails (Isaiah 55:11, Psalm 136).
“Trials wean us from the world, and surely that is a most blessed thing. Oh, to come to Christ and find my all in Him.” – Charles Spurgeon
Prayerfully consider the following quotes. Might any of them apply to you?
- “When joy is low usually it’s because entitlement is high.” – Pastor Steven FurtickIf we catch ourselves saying, “I deserve…” it’s possible we have a spirit of entitlement, which is not from God. How can we adjust our expectations to be more aligned with His will?
- “I realized I want Christ, but not all of Him, especially the suffering. How can I say I love Him if I’m not willing to go where He has been.” – Rosy George, in response to living with pain
- “Joy is always a function of gratitude – and gratitude is always a function of perspective.” – Ann Voscamp
If we want to change our lives, it starts by changing the way we think. We can’t rejoice without first realigning our perspective.
We rejoice not because circumstances are perfect or we have certainty about our future, but because Christ is in us and we have fellowship with God.
When we fix our thoughts on these truths it renews our mind. We can praise God for what He’s given us, trust He will provide, and expect Him to bring the good work He began in us to completion (Philippians 1:6).
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Jen Roland