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Finding Joy in the Middle of Your Struggles

  • Twila Miles
  • Updated Jun 22, 2016
Finding Joy in the Middle of Your Struggles

Desiring Joy

Light streamed in through the slats of our bedroom blinds, beckoning me to wake up. I had tossed about fitfully all night, though, replaying scenes of intense confrontations with our adopted son. I closed my eyes and rolled back over. I did not have the strength to respond to the beams of a new day, for my heart was weak with depression.

Daily, for years, our son had been pushing us away. He had endured grievous abuses in various orphanages throughout his early childhood years. So, when he was brought into our family at the age of 12, he continued to cling to the survival tactics he once needed. He was adamant to not trust us, and he built a wall around himself, keeping at bay the love we tried to lavish on him.

I felt powerless to help our son heal. I yearned for him to experience the assurance of belonging to a family. And I wanted our home to be a peaceful place for us all, a refuge where we could relax, laugh, love, and grow together. A place brimming with joy.

Joy. That word kept knocking on my heart. When was the last time joy had been alive in our family? I couldn’t recall when it last made an appearance.

As I considered the state of our home, I became desperate to find a way to recapture joy. I didn’t know why, but somehow I knew that joy was imperative to both our son’s personal healing, as well as to the rest of us. In my own brokenness and depression, though, I didn’t know where to find it anymore.

Acquiring Joy

One day God met me in my pool of despair and quietly whispered to my heart, “Your desire for joy is a noble quest, but you will not find it apart from Me. Open up your Bible and study what it says. In its pages you will discover the key to joy in your life.”

Convicted, I began digging through Scripture, seeking His roadmap to joy. Could it be true that God’s Word could change everything for the better?

I kept a notebook beside me, and every time I ran across a verse with the word “joy” in it, I wrote it down, and prayed that the Holy Spirit would help me understand the depths of its meaning. The more I read, the more I could see how far off the mark my sinful heart had been.

I had believed joy was possible only as the challenges in our home subsided. I longed for peace, but even Jesus said He did not come to bring peace to the earth (Matt. 10:34), so why was I focusing on that? I desperately wanted the intense conflicts in our home to come to a halt. But what if those clashes were important signposts to the profound struggles imbedded deep within our son?

As I read through the verses I had written in my journal, it became apparent to me that true joy was not contingent on how our son or I felt at any moment. Rather, it had everything to do with how present the Lord Jesus Christ was in our lives. Reading verse after verse, I was astonished to discover that every reference to joy that I had found revolved around the Lord Jesus in one form or another. For instance:

  • Luke 2:10-11Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great JOY…For unto you is born this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” When Jesus Christ came to this world, His very presence brought forth great joy. A joy that looked forward to the cross and subsequent resurrection. A joy abounding in purpose and love. A joy that was eternal.

That joy has never gone away. As He draws near to us in our lives today, He still brings great joy. Not a trite happiness, but a true, deep joy in knowing that we have a Savior who personally cares for us, and never leaves us to navigate this hurting world alone.

  • Psalm 16:11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of JOY.” As I read this verse, my heart warmed as I was reminded of the fact that Jesus selflessly gave His life so that we who believe in Him would have eternal life. What an incredible gift! No wonder the Psalmist goes on to say that in His presence we find fullness of joy.

When did I start taking the gospel for granted, allowing it to go stale in its importance in my life? I imagine that when I lost sight of the gospel’s meaning, is when I began to lose my joy.

  • John 15:4, 11Abide in me, and I in you…These things I have spoken to you that my JOY may be in you, and that your JOY may be full.” Thank you, Lord, for drawing me back to Yourself, illuminating the path of joy in my life. You are very present, offering the free gift of salvation, abiding in me, teaching me to abide in You, leading me every step of the way, in every circumstance, aren’t You? What more could I ask for?

With a new clarity of mind, peace and joy blanketed me like never before. I knew there would still be a long, hard road ahead of us as we helped our son navigate the turbulent waters of his past. That was okay, though, for Christ would be with all of us on the journey. No longer did I feel alone and depressed, but encouraged and energized, as the presence of Jesus Christ filled my aching heart. I realized that God had given us the specific calling of helping a child who had endured great abuses, and He would see us through to the end.   

Twila Miles is an adoptive mother, author, and conference speaker. She holds a BA in Fine Art from Davidson College, and an MA in Theological Studies, summa cum laude, from Covenant Theological Seminary. She teaches Bible studies, serves on the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) Women’s Ministry Council for eastern North Carolina, and is an active member of the Ukrainian Adoption Connection, as well as the PCA Women’s Writers group. Twila and her husband, Jeff, live in Raleigh, NC, with their five children. Their oldest child was adopted from Ukraine at the age of twelve. She is the author of Whispers of Hope: Finding Perspective Post Adoption.

Publication date: June 22, 2016