Intersection of Life and Faith

10 Ways to Hold onto Joy in Troubled Times

  • Kathryn Graves Crosswalk Contributing Writer
  • 2020 19 May
10 Ways to Hold onto Joy in Troubled Times

Sometimes, reading news headlines or social media posts gives one the impression that, as Chicken Little said, “The sky is falling.” It’s easy to become caught up in worries about the future and our daily well-being.

However, the Bible offers us a better way.

Christians are provided with joy that is independent of our circumstances. It will carry us through with our heads above water, so let’s explore how to grab joy, no matter what happens.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Liderina

  • 1. Remember God’s Sovereignty

    1. Remember God’s Sovereignty

    When we remember that God is in control of everything, it calms us.

    Even if our lives seem chaotic, we can trust the Lord to work on our behalf. Romans 8:28 assures us that God is managing circumstances for our overall good—even when things seem bleak.

    Events may be painful or exhausting. We might not be able to comprehend how anything good could come from what we’re enduring. But we can hold onto this truth because God never breaks His promises. Woven tightly into his sovereignty is his love. Our God is not capricious or selfish. He really does orchestrate what is good for us.

    We have the choice to believe and embrace it—to abandon our grip on worry and open our hands and hearts to our Father, who does know best.

     “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

    2.  Remember Joy Is a Fruit of the Spirit

    Because the Holy Spirit is not tangible, it’s easy to forget that He indwells every believer. All of his characteristics are inside us too.

    Joy is available if we simply remain aware of his activity and presence. The Bible assures us of this in Galatians 5:22-23. However, the Bible also warns us against quenching or stifling the Spirit’s work in 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

    By acknowledging the Holy Spirit and giving Him a place in our minds, we avoid limiting his abilities and free up his help. This joy is not mere happiness. It comes from our souls being in sync with God. It is that gut-deep, supernatural peace that can only come from the Lord. This joy fruit is difficult to contain once released—everyone around will notice and want some, too.

    “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" Galatians 5:22-23

    Photo Creidt: ©GettyImages/EzumeImages

  • 3. Remember the Good Things God Has Done

    3. Remember the Good Things God Has Done

    The dedication of Solomon’s Temple was a grand and beautiful event. Musicians played, choirs sang, and the people recited scripture reminding them of God’s work on behalf of Israel.

    As they departed the celebration, we read in I Kings 8:66 that they rejoiced because of all the good things God had done for them. They would need to hold onto the memories in later years when times became tough.

    In the same way, we need to remember the good things God did for us in the past. This practice will fill us with joy, and at the same time help us realize that He will do it again. Remember that time when you were just sure you couldn’t take another day—but God did something or sent someone to help? Because you know He did it before, you can be joyfully confident He’ll provide just what you need this time, too.

    “…They blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad because the Lord had been good to his servant David and to his people Israel." 1 Kings 8:66

    4.  Choose to Praise God in All Things

    Notice this does not say to praise God for all things. Everything that happens to us isn’t good. Bad things do happen to good people.

    Someone else’s poor decisions can result in undesirable consequences that splash over on us. Our own less-than-perfect choices lead to uncomfortable circumstances.

    And there are times when God needs to allow difficulties into our lives to get our attention or teach us something. In some cases, it’s not about us or our family at all, but the entire country or the world. The key is to praise God for who He is—all the time, and in all situations.

    By praising his qualities and goodness, we get our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus. Then we gain perspective and joy floods our souls.

    “I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies." Psalm 18:3

    Photo Credit: ©Getty Images Plus/Prostock-Studio 

  • 5.  Realize the Presence of the Lord

    5.  Realize the Presence of the Lord

    When we are continually aware of the Lord’s presence with us, it brings us joy. We can cultivate this knowledge by reading the Bible. In Acts 2:25-28, Peter quoted King David when he told the crowd at Pentecost, “I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken for He is right beside me.”

    In many other passages, we read about God’s nearness to his children. In the same way, we can be assured He is with us, bringing comfort in difficulty and joy in the middle of our messes. Prayer is another way to become fully aware of God’s company. As we lift our concerns to Him, He helps us sense his attendance to our needs. Later in Acts 2, Peter said in verse 28, “You will fill me with the joy of your presence.”

    God is here—what joy!

    “You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence." Acts 2:28

    6. Remember How the Story Ends

    Jesus told his disciples they would mourn what was going to happen to him, but that they would end up rejoicing. Jesus knew he would rise from the dead—and when his followers saw it, everything would change.

    We have an advantage over them because we know what happened. We also have the Bible where we can read ahead to what will occur. If we only gain one bit of information about the future from our reading, it is this: Jesus will return in victory one day.

    This knowledge can keep us afloat when circumstances seem overwhelming. In spite of our current situation, we can have hope based in rock-solid truth.

    Our hope is based on the power of Jesus Christ himself. What greater source of joy could we possibly imagine?

    “ …You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy." John 16:20

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages Plus/vikialis

  • man smiling hands over heart peace and joy

    7.  Realize Your Strength Comes from Joy

    Most of the time I think we get this concept backwards. We think joy is a result of being strong. But the Bible clearly states in Nehemiah 8:10 that our strength comes from the joy of the Lord.

    What is the Lord’s joy, and how does it give us strength? God knew the plan He had for Jesus to come as a human being and provide salvation from sin through his sacrificial death on the cross.

    He also knew death couldn’t keep Jesus in the grave and that He would rise again and one day return in victory. The completion of the plan to save us is the source of his joy.

    Jesus gives us his power over sin and death, and this is where our strength comes from. We can hold onto his joy and the ability it confers on us to weather any storm or face any obstacle. The best part is, we don’t have to worry about it running out or failing.

    “  . . . Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!" Nehemiah 8:10

    8.  Rehearse the Names of the Lord

    A perusal of the Hebrew names of God in the Old Testament, along with their English meanings, shows us the vast breadth of his characteristics.

    The names all reflect his intrinsic traits and ways He relates to us. God is the Lord Most High, Everlasting, and Almighty.

    These names assure us of his ability to withstand any onslaught—and are the foundation we build our security upon. He is our Healer, Protector, Provider, Shepherd, and the Strong One Who Sees.

    What comfort these names bring us as we contemplate them. The Lord is Peace, The Lord is There, and The Lord My Banner all help us know we are not left hanging by a thread—we have a champion who will take care of us.

    “Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!" 1 Chronicles 16:10

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

  • Open praying hands, hoe to go through hard times

    9.  Make Prayer with Thankfulness a Habit

    Philippians 4:4 instructs us to always be full of joy, but verse 6 tells us how to accomplish it. The key is to spend time thanking God for his past, present, and future provision.

    We can easily recall instances in our lives when we know without a doubt it was God who met our need. If we pay attention, we can notice His working in our current circumstances and thank him.

    But what about thanking the Lord for doing what we can’t see ahead of us? We can take our cue from David, who wrote many of the Psalms. His usual pattern was to tell God exactly how he felt, what he feared, or what was wrong.

    Then he thanked God in advance for his power over whatever the situation was, and resolving it for David. Things might have looked desperate for David, but he believed God would come through—and God always did. A thankful heart is a joyful heart.

    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." Philippians 4:6

    10.  Remember that God Finds Joy in You

    Over and over in the Bible we read that God made us, planned for us, desires a relationship with us, and loves us.

    Have you ever created something? Maybe you quilt and just finished a beautiful wall-hanging or bedspread. Or maybe you design and carve objects from wood or metal. Perhaps you’re a painter, photographer, interior designer, or musical composer.

    Regardless of your medium, don’t you feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride when the finishing touch goes on your most recent masterpiece? Does it fill you with joy to stand back and stare at your magnificent project?

    This is exactly—times about a gazillion—the way God feels about you. He even sings over you! Rest assured that you, the source of his joy, will be protected and sheltered. You might not feel it, but the Lord is watching over you. Let his joy permeate your day today.

    “May the glory of the Lord continue forever! The Lord takes pleasure in all He has made." Psalm 104:31

    Joy is not some hypothetical, fluttery feeling. It is an imperative. It’s also a solid foundation we can build our lives upon so that we are able to withstand whatever we face. All we need to do is turn to the Lord and ask him to help us find it—and then be sure to thank him when it floods our souls.

    Photo Credit: ©Milada Vigerova/Unsplash


    Kathryn Graves, author of Woven: Discovering Your Beautiful Tapestry of Confidence, Rest, and Focus, and Fashioned by God, holds a BA in Psychology, is a pastor’s wife and Bible teacher, and spent 15 years in the fashion industry. Kathryn is Mimi to four grandsons, and loves to play with color—including interior design, clothing, and painting with pastels. In addition to her website, find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.