Friday, December 02, 2016

Choosing Joy When Life Is Hard

When I look back to 15 years ago, I see a girl who got so excited over the smallest things while enjoying huge belly laughs – I was so joyful. Life was pretty simple in the sense that nothing really bad had happened and most of the things that I had worked towards had been successful...other than finding a husband. Over time, the reality of life hit when my mom received a cancer diagnosis, my dad had a heart attack, and my mom passed away while I was six months pregnant. I now saw that life was fragile and unpredictable. I experienced disappointment and bitterness.

Choosing joy when life is hard
Eventually I did find that husband right in front of my nose (a fellow teacher) and we had three kids. My kids have brought me great moments of joy as their lives are filled with simple delights but there is this underlying lack of deep happiness and consistent joy that I once felt. Is this just the reality of getting older? Is it just being realistic? Is it that I'm depressed? Is it a disappointment with God? 

I'm working through these questions and recently read Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough by Kay Warren. I wanted to share some tidbits with you in case finding joy is a struggle in your day to day life as well.

1.  You cannot have joy and worry at the same time.

She talks about trusting that God is in control of the details of our lives. I do trust Him but (yes, the "but") that doesn't mean I haven't experienced disappointment and frustration. My greatest cheerleader is gone. I have an autoimmune disease. Our foster child will be returned to a home that is so different than ours. Our kids have and will have struggles that are difficult to deal with. I can handle these things but they definitely take a big hit out of my joy levels. I know worrying doesn't make a difference in solving a problem but even just considering issues as they come up can make life hard. She says "...expressing trust in God is learning how to gaze at him and only glance at our problems."

2. "Beware the barrenness of the busy life."Socrates. 

I don't know what else I can cut out of my life but I know things are too busy. In the last three days alone I've been to the biomedical lab, the medical clinic twice (two different kids), meeting with a social worker, and the public health clinic.  Four kids with various needs means I'm busy! Right now not one of our kids is in an extra-curricular activity and life is still too busy.  Gary and I need a whole day together but trying to figure out how that will happen is tricky because of childcare which takes me back to the issues of not having my mom and having several kids who are difficult to handle.  

Choosing joy when life is hard

3. The solution for perfection is acceptance of our imperfections.

I don't judge myself against others but I know that the pressure I put on myself to be the best mom for my kids is something that takes up a bit too much of my mental energy. It's not that I want them to have everything or look the best, I am so concerned about their character. I need to just let them be kids. Not everything is a teachable moment.

4. How do you nurture joy in others?

Believe the best about them, don't be judgmental with those you love – accept them as they are, empathize and validate that they are heard and say "thank you" (appreciate others).  One of the greatest struggles I have is criticizing those I love; it's hard to live with someone and not be irritated, isn't it? One of the greatest feelings for me?  When someone says "I hear you" or "That sounds difficult" or "Thank you for ______". 

5. Joy and gratitude go together.  

I try to focus on the positives and make a point of doing my Thankful Thursday posts each week. My parents were great examples of pointing out all that we had to be grateful for throughout our lives and this has stuck with me. 

Choosing joy when life is hard

Have you struggled with joy in your life? 

I am sincerely curious what has helped you regain it.  Or, maybe you've never lost it?  Tell me your secrets.  I want to be able to laugh easily and cast my worries aside. 


As always, I'd love to see you on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Please pin here for later:

Sometimes life can be hard and we are struggling to find joy. Here are five ways to help you choose joy.

"Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply.  As you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear." –Henri Nouwen.


  1. Thank you for sharing Louise, this came across my feed this morning and I thought I'd share as I have also been learning about joy in hard seasons. If there's one thing I'm learning it's that joy is much different than I often thought. A verse that has been speaking to me is James 1: 2-4 "count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect in complete, lacking in nothing." The joy James is speaking about is there in the midst of trial, in fact it is there because of the trial. I have found when I look anywhere but Jesus for joy it's dissapointing. So perhaps our joy is found just in the very fact that God has placed us in a difficult season as He refined and perfects us so that when we stand before Him we truly are "lacking in nothing."
    Take care,

    1. Thanks for commenting, Karen :) I'm sorry you have also been experiencing a hard season (or seasons). I hear you and I know in my heart that I need to work on my prayer life and that my joy/peace comes from Him but at the same time I feel like "God, this is enough! Can I have a break to rest up and enjoy life a bit more?"...too much learning. Hope today is a good one for you!