It’s been a tough year. The sudden death of a close friend and co-worker, another close friend suffering with serious cancer, recovery from a major house flood, family illness, aging parents with health issues, a child’s car wreck, financial strain, and many other things are biting at my heels and have left me quite discouraged and overwhelmed. Still, I’m a bit embarrassed to write this as I realize that many, many people who read this may have gone through, or are going through, much more severe things that have stripped them of their joy in living each day.
There are a lot of thieves out there that can break into our lives and steal our joy. Fear, anxiety, death, jealousy, family strife, busyness, loneliness, divorce, illness, and many other adverse circumstances are culprits that rob us of our joy and satisfaction in the daily grind of life. Even “little” things that come all at once—job difficulties, rebellious kids, marriage arguments, unpaid bills—can be bandits that take just a bit of our vigor for life.
So, what can we do when all those things, big and small, hold us up at gun point? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but perhaps these things will help restore the joy that was taken from us.
1. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes the big stresses and tragedies in our lives are so overwhelming that they drown out simple pleasures and happy moments. So how can we develop an attitude of gratitude in the midst of hardships? Spending time dwelling on everything you are grateful for may sound elementary, but I think there’s something to it especially since you can do this almost anytime and anywhere. Maybe it’s spending an extra few minutes reflecting before you get out of bed in the morning or turning off the radio on the drive to work to think about your blessings. Whenever it may be for you, make pondering things you’re thankful for a priority on a regular basis.
2. Be content with your current circumstances. “If I just had _________, then I’d really be happy.” How would you fill in that blank? A better marriage? More obedient children? A healthier life? A higher paying job? We can dream all day long about how much better things would be if we just had one more thing, but the truth is, even if we had it, it probably would not make us happy for very long. We’d want something more. Learning to be content in the present is key.
3. Let go more. We want to control things like our spouse’s temper, our teen’s behavior, our baby’s guaranteed safety, and our friend’s loyalty. We spend a lot of time, energy, emotions, and brainpower trying to control people and things only to realize at some point that we are not in control of most things in life and never were. We just thought we were. So, let go. Ride the rollercoaster of life with your hands in the air, not clenched to the safety bar.
4. Be God-dependent, not self-dependent. We may not say it, but we sometimes think things like: “If I work harder for a few more months, I can pull us out of this financial problem.” “If I keep a positive attitude, I can beat this cancer.” “If I quit nagging him, he’ll stop drinking.” “If I have all of the right protective gear for my child, they won’t get hurt.” But self-sufficient thinking—thinking that everything and everyone depends on me—is wrong thinking and can cause great emotional distress and pain, especially when things don’t go as planned. God is all-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Trusting and resting in Him is the only way to achieve lasting peace and joy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you find joy in the daily grind. Please share them with me below.