How to Dig Deep for Joy When Life is Hard

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 ESV

Nothing can shake God’s joy, no one can steal it, nothing can tarnish the fullness of God’s joy.

So why do we feel joyless?

Too often I convince myself that joy is just one circumstance away. I call it the “If-Only” disease.

If only I had a man…then I’d be happy.

If only I had a car…

If only I had kids…

If only my kids could talk…

If only my kids would be quiet…

If only I had a bigger/smaller house…

If only my husband would….

If only my wife would…

If only cancer never…

So we tie our joy to capricious circumstances or fallible people. And when circumstances are stale or the fallible person fails we wonder when we will ever feel joyful again.

Instead of staking our joy in something we cannot control (other people or circumstances) why don’t we stake our joy in the unshakable, unchangeable, faithful, loving, righteous, just, merciful, God of the universe? Why don’t we wake up each morning and enter His presence? How does one enter the presence of God?

First we need to recognize we cannot flee from God’s presence.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7 ESV

But we can certainly decide whether we experience His presence or not. Otherwise this psalmist would not have to charge us to:

Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4 ESV

So how do we seek God’s presence?

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Psalm 95:2 ESV

But I don’t feel thankful and I don’t feel like making a joyful noise. I get it. There are times when life is hard and thanksgiving is the last thing on our minds. But I challenge you to ask God to give you eyes to see something to thank God for in every moment. Gratitude is our gateway to experiencing God’s presence. And joy is there in the presence of God. Joy that defies circumstances and hurtful people. It is worth digging through the hard circumstances to cultivate gratitude.

Father God, I confess I do not always stake my joy in You. I seek joy in things, circumstances or people. Then I complain when life does not go the way I want. Help me dig for gratitude instead of complaining. Help me to experience the joy of Your presence as I give thanks to You. In Jesus’ Name Amen.