In my previous blog post, I talked about what joy is and where it comes from. If you haven’t read it yet, go check it out! It’s full of scriptures and information about the true meaning of joy, and almost like part one to this blog post.
“What Even Is Joy?” is great if you’re not sure what God intended for joy to be or how to get it. However, if you feel like you’ve got a pretty good grasp on this whole joy thing and want to get on to the practical steps, read on!
For those who did read the last post, I pray that it blessed you and helped you to find a better grasp on what true joy is.
Alright, let’s get to it!
As we covered in “What Even Is Joy?”, joy is not derived and determined based on the circumstances in our lives; joy comes from the Lord.
Romans 15:13 says, “ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Also, Psalm 16:11 says, “…you will fill me with joy in your presence,”
The Bible is pretty clear here. Joy is a gift from God that we can receive in His presence and by simply trusting in Him. As it says in the verse from Romans listed above, peace comes “as you trust in him.”
Before we truly get started, I’d like to point out that you don’t have to work for or strive for joy. You do not have to earn it. God will not withhold joy from you in this life as a punishment.
God desires each of us to live in and walk in joy daily. Just how do we do that? is the big question.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you a quick and easy three step process and guarantee you’ll get joy. It just doesn’t work that way. We’re all different — our struggles are different, our experiences are different, and our situations are different. So I can’t give simple steps for everyone to follow. However, I can provide guidance on your journey towards living in true joy.
The following advice I will share was not derived from a self-help book. Rather, this is what I have learned from experience.
For most of my life, I’ve dealt with depression of some form. Sometimes it was a minor issue in the background, but other times it was a heavy weight upon my shoulders that caused me to think about dying as a relief.
Depression, for me, was a weight I carried around for years. I learned to shoulder the burden fairly well, but sometimes it became too heavy and I collapsed under it.
I was always tired. I never felt social or had a desire to interact with people. I was okay to be alone for hours at a time. I never felt truly happy. I had moments of happiness and energy, but mostly I just walked around in a haze.
I felt like I was trapped in life and like I was walking in quicksand: I was constantly moving forward and straining and trying, but really I was just sinking lower and lower.
I kept praying for joy, and asking for joy, and wishing I could shake the feelings. But I could never really free myself from it.
However, I had an experience with God one Sunday at church that I’ve never had before. Nobody laid hands on me, no one spoke over me or prayed for me, there was no big spiritual moment. I was just at the altar praying with people and worshiping God.
But when I walked out of that sanctuary, I was filled with joy. The next day, I was still joyful. And the day after that, and the day after that, and for the whole week, I was joyful.
Now, I know that Sunday was a supernatural, spiritual outpouring of a gift of joy. And I do believe God can do that for anyone. But I think God wants US to seek out joy and learn for ourselves how to use it.
You see, God used that Sunday service as the building grounds for joy in my life; He used it as a catalyst to enact a change in my outlook on joy. And that week, God began to teach me how to receive joy daily and walk in it at all times. And I’d love to share it with you! Because hard times will come. We’ll find ourselves in scary situations. But if we know how to find joy in these seasons, we’ll make it through. For the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Lesson One: We receive joy by being in His presence
This step is absolutely vital to the existence of joy in our lives. As stated above, Psalm 16:11 says, “…you will fill me with joy in your presence,” My conclusion is that we can’t be filled with true joy if we don’t first spend time with our Holy Father.
If you’re not sure how to do that, what that means, or if you’ve fallen short in that area, I’ll give you a few examples that should help.
Spend time in His Word. Read your Bible. Learn what God says about you and to you. Learn about His promises to us. Read about what God says about hard situations.
Meditate on His Word. Don’t just read scripture and move on in life, but really take it to heart. Think about it throughout the day. Think about what it means and how it applies to your life.
Journal. Write down your feelings and revelations and things you’ve learned from God. Write down your prayer requests.
Pray. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). When we talk with and to God; when we tell Him how we feel, what’s going on in our life; when we invite Him into our day, it makes all the difference. Praying invites the presence of God into our lives.
Make Him first priority each day. When we start our day off reading the Word, praying, listening to worship music or an encouraging Christian podcast, or whatever it is we choose to do, it helps prepare us for the day ahead. If we can immerse ourselves in His presence before the day truly begins, we can handle anything that comes our way.
Include Him in your day. Oftentimes, we get so busy with work, school, or other daily obligations that we neglect our relationship with our Father. If we ignore our friends or significant other for the majority of the day and only briefly spend time with them, our relationship with them won’t be very strong. The same is true with God. We must include Him in our day. We can do this in many ways such as offering a little prayer under our breath throughout the day. Whatever you can do to invite His presence, and therefore His joy in, will have a major impact on your day.
Lesson Two: Stop feeding the negativity
So maybe this one is just me, I don’t know, but when I get upset about one thing, I begin to think about everything that has ever been negative in my life.
Like for instance, let’s say my car breaks down. I’m obviously upset and stressed about that. But then my brain begins to make things worse because I start listing everything that has ever gone wrong in my life. I’ll start thinking things like my life sucks so much right now. My car is broke down, my room’s a mess, I spilled my coffee this morning, that girl was super rude to me three weeks ago, I said something so stupid the other day and completely embarresed myself and on and on and on. These things just race around in my mind, further upsetting and discouraging me, and make me more and more depressed.
But guys, if there’s anyone out there who thinks the same way as me, this is your wakeup call. We can NOT do this! It’s so important.
The week following my filling of joy, I found myself in a few negative situations where I would typically get annoyed or angry, but God showed me something.
When we’re going through a problem and we focus on the negative like I was doing, it’s like looking through a glass bottle. When we do this, everything becomes distorted.
The same is true in negative situations. If we feed the negativity by listing all the reasons we should be upset, we’re looking at the world through a glass bottle — everything will be distorted. We will begin to see everything as bad or negative.
If you’re not sure how to stop this negative spiral, lesson three will be super helpful.
Lesson Three: Live with an attitude of gratitude
Sometimes life is hard. When we look around us it’s all pain and heartache and hard times. But we can’t roll over and let these feelings consume us. We have to choose to find something positive in the midst of the situation.
Author and speaker Annie F. Downs spoke on this and jokingly said that even if the fries you ate are extra good, you have to focus on that. Find that one good thing and focus all your attention on that thing.
We also can do this by living in a constant state of thanks. For example, I once had to drive an hour out of my way to bring my sister her purse. I could have been annoyed or irritated with her. Instead, I thanked God that I had the opportunity to help my sister out. Another time I had a super packed schedule. I worked from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., then went to a family member’s birthday party, before going to a two and a half hour meeting on how to help people struggling with addiction, which ended after 9 p.m. And, this was all an hour away from my house.
Normally, I would’ve been run down, stressed at the full schedule, annoyed someone else couldn’t cover the meeting, and depressed that I wouldn’t get anything done that day. But, instead, I thanked God that I got to learn more about addiction and how to help people, and that I got extra hours at work.
Living with an attitude of gratitude also means to be thankful for all that you have, even when it’s not all you want. You might not have the best home, but you have a roof over your head. You might not drive the nicest car, but it gets you from Point A to Point B. You might not have the best job, but you’re blessed to have one.
If you can practice this when bad things come your way, you’ll find yourself feeling more joy than ever before.
Lesson Four: Celebrate the small victories
I think a lot of times we can beat ourselves up for the things we mess up on or fail at, and that’s only detrimental to us.
For example, say your goal this week is to wake up early and read your Bible each day of the week. And let’s say that you only did it twice this week. I think for many of us, our natural reaction is to beat ourselves up for failing to meet our goal.
What if, instead, we congratulate ourselves for doing it those two days? If we can learn to celebrate at ALL times and stop criticizing ourselves, we’ll be able to shake off the negativity we place on ourselves.
When we “fail” at our goals or objectives or whatever it is we’re going through, instead of chewing ourselves out, we have to learn to say, “You know what? I’ve improved. I did better than before. God, please help me to continue to improve.”
These things have been such GAME CHANGERS in my life when I regularly apply them, and they have helped to produce and properly steward joy in my life.
Does that mean that I haven’t felt depressed or upset or anxious? Of course not; I have definitely experienced these emotions since that Sunday. But, the difference is, now I know how to pull myself out of it.
Before, I would become overwhelmed by feelings of fear and depression, and it would affect me in every single way possible. But now, by using the lessons God taught me, I am able to work through the stress, the pressure, the weight, and the heaviness and burst out into joy.
Is it easy? No, not always. Sometimes it’s a lot of work. (If this scares you and you aren’t sure how to work for it, keep an eye out for a future blog where I’ll talk about that very topic.)
But the point of all of this is that it is possible to break out of and away from cycles of negativity. It’s possible to live in joy.
Some of you may be reading this and think that the lessons I laid out aren’t enough. And maybe it’s not. I’m on this journey of learning to live in everyday joy just like you are. There’s still so much to learn.
However, I do want to stress that it is one hundred percent okay to seek counsel. It’s okay to talk with your pastor about these subjects. It’s okay to see a therapist or a counselor. In fact, I encourage you to confide in someone about your struggles. Seek help and look for someone to support you on your journey and remind you of these things when you begin to spiral into negativity. These lessons can be used in conjunction with additional counsel and whatever they recommend.
Never be ashamed for seeking help. Asking for help is, in my opinion, one of the strongest things anyone can do.
Yes, this struggle is real; but so is our God. Our God is alive and real and He’s here for us. So cast all your worries on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
Start applying these lessons to your life now. Seek help now. Don’t wait! You’ve got this!
Maddisen Sauls is the smile and voice behind the Everyday Joy blog as well as the author of the Word of the Week posts and the editor of by leaps and bounds. Throughout her life, Maddisen has worked as a reporter for small town newspapers, a School Age and Preschool teacher, and has acquired her ministerial license.
An avid book reader and lover of the written word, Maddisen is passionate about using her favorite medium to reach the lost and the hurting, and to offer encouragement and hope to those struggling through life.
Following her battle with depression, Maddisen has made it her mission to help other people through this journey and to bring joy to the lives of the people around her.
You can find Maddisen on Instagram @maddisen.paige