Choosing Joy Is Not Easy During Stressful Times

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I grew up attending church, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School from preschool to eighth grade. It truly gave me a foundation that I am still using today. One of my favorite songs we would sing in elementary school was “I Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy (Down in My Heart)”.  It was a fun and catchy song for the kids and adults. We would get louder as we sang the lyrics “Down in my heart (where?) Down in my heart (where?) Down in my heart!” It was a simple phrase that reminded us to keep joy in our hearts. Today, I am still trying to keep joy in my heart and once in awhile I might even hum that familiar tune when alone. :)


The past several years have not brought a lot of joy to my heart. There has been a lot of challenges in my marriage, both our parents’ health, business challenges, COVID, my health, raising kids from seven years old to seventeen years old and my own spiritual battle. During those years I knew joy had not been something I was producing but it was really shocking when friends and coworkers told me that I need to work on finding joy.


Have you ever had that moment when people had to point out something you already knew about yourself but didn’t think anyone else did?


There really are only three choices:

  1. Don’t change a thing
  2. Be intentional and work on changing
  3. Get new friends


Let’s focus on #2 for this blog.


How do you change something? First, you need to want the change yourself. Second, you need to get an accountability partner. That is exactly what I did when I shared with my wife the struggle I was having with joy but wanted it. I shared the list above on what was stealing my joy. Correction! I was allowing the list to steal my joy. I think joy is a choice. That doesn’t mean I think all situations are easy to find joy but I think some allow a choice. For example, just this week I was driving to the dentist. I had a car battery in the back seat of my Suburban that needed to be returned. I was going around a roundabout when a car coming into the roundabout was going fast towards me. I accelerated the gas to get out of its way and the battery went sliding into my speaker cover. I heard the sound of my speaker being cracked open. I was so mad at what just happened. I had to decide in that moment if I was going to let this situation steal my joy for the day. I put on a good face when I was at the dentist and had a nice conversation with the dental hygienist. I got in the car and called the body shop to see if they could see the damage. I found out the damage was going to cost me close to six hundred dollars. I decided to accept the situation and be glad that the car coming towards me, in the roundabout, did not hit me. That would have costed me a lot more money and time to repair. I am not saying every situation is this simple. I fail at least 7/10 times but I’m working on not letting my joy get stolen when stress hits my life.



How did I pass this time vs. the rest of the times I fail?


I’m working on finding joy during difficult times. My wife bought me for Christmas a blank notebook with the cover that reads “I CHOOSE JOY”. Yep, I have a joy diary! I never thought I would be writing my daily thoughts in a book titled JOY but here I am. My accountability partner (my wife) knew I was struggling with finding joy in my stressful moments of life which “feels” like ALWAYS. I started writing in my JOY DIARY on January 1st and have been keeping up with it weekly. I did good the first week with writing each night but have drifted away a bit. I do get one entry in a week and recap what happened to bring joy in my life. I keep the notebook on my desk and see it most the time when I am not putting papers on top of it. (Don’t tell my wife!) Like most processes, things won’t change unless you make it a priority and keep the new focus front of mind.


What do I write in my I CHOOSE JOY diary?


I try to find the positive things of my day vs. thinking about all the ways the day sucked. The first day I titled it “RELATONSHIPS”. It was a Sunday and my pastor talked about how most of our years will be defined as good or bad because of the relationships we have during that year. I was thinking about that when my kids told me they were starving for food. My older kids wanted Chipotle but my youngest said he was not hungry. We were in the car ready to go home with our food when the youngest child said, “I want Taco Bell!” I did ask why he was hungry suddenly and he said that he just liked Taco Bell better. To be honest, don’t tell him, it’s a tough call for me too between Taco Bell and Chipotle. In the past I would have looked at this as a burden to go to another place. The two restaurants are only a few minutes apart from each other so it’s not a distance issue but a heart problem for me to go to another place when I wanted to go home. I wrote in my JOY DIARY the following that night that it was joy to make the kids happy and they helped me take down the Christmas lights outside. It doesn’t always work that way, but I am learning to try to find the joy in my relationships instead of viewing them as burdens.


There is a lot more I am working on to find joy in the following….

  • Serving Others
  • Leadership
  • Work
  • Family
  • Youth Sports
  • Cleaning The House
  • Lazy Days
  • Marriage
  • Church


I hope you can find encouragement that everyone can find something to work on in 2023. I would encourage you to talk to others and ask them for feedback on what they think you could work on. Take it one day at a time and try a little to improve. I think you will be really happy with the results when you wrap up 2023.



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