Faith, Joy, Trusting God

Joy: 7 Thoughts for Cultivating Joy in Hard Seasons

Two teen boys climbing up boulders and scoping out the view beyond

@JeanneTakenaka

This picture brings me great joy. A few weeks ago, I insisted my two boy-men go walk/hiking with me. Getting our teen boys outside rarely meets with whoops of excitement.

When we arrived, my two guys trudged ahead on a dirt trail. There must have been magic in the air that day because, all of a sudden, they were running. With smiles on their faces. 

And the coup de grace came when they discovered large boulders to explore and to test their bravery.

Eighteen months ago, each of our sons were dealt life-altering events. 

A teen boy sitting on the edge of a rocky overhang

As a family, we walked through some pretty dark places. I found myself stressed and weary as I slogged from one task to the next, as new information piled onto my shoulders. I questioned if we’d ever get beyond that painful season. 

This pandemic casts a pall over everything. Everything people anticipated has been crossed off the calendar. And if that wasn’t hard enough, real-life keeps happening. Loved ones get sick and die. Children of all ages make choices that break hearts. There are diagnoses. Isolation. 

When life’s falling apart around us, can we really know joy? There’s a lot of “real-life hard” going on right now. We can’t diminish the real pain and try to live in a fake “Hakuna Matata” world.

A view of a landscape with trees, bushes and rocks beneath a blue sky and soft clouds

What does joy look like in the painful, uncertain seasons of life? 

Sometimes joy is less a bold declaration and more a quiet resolution. We all face times of sorrow, of heartbreak, of being brought to the end of ourselves and into a place where every expectation has been dashed.

But this: 

Meme with the words: "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth in weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." ~Psalm 126:6-7 on a backdrop of wheat growing in a field.

We will sow in our sorrowing times. And if we sow well, we will return with songs of joy.

My friend, Jamie Clark, says, “Trials produce grief in us which seems contradictory to joy. Yet, joy comes through giving our grief to Him [God]. Joy comes out of the deep, intimate well of a relationship with Him, not the circumstances surrounding us.”

Another friend, Janette Cheney, says, “Joy is a position of my heart as I trust in who God says He is.”

Two teen boys running up a dirt path—tells part of the story about joy

How do we cultivate joy in the difficult seasons? Here are few thoughts:

1. Intentionally look for God’s fingerprints in our days. A beautiful sunrise, a surprise note, someone letting us in front of them at the grocery store . . . We’ll see them if we look.

2. Look for a Bible verse or passage that will point your heart and thoughts toward God. And meditate on it often.

3. Choose gratitude. Each day, write down three things—big or small—somewhere, and put it where you’ll see it and remember we’re not in this alone.

4. Remember who our Father is. In the hard seasons when He seems silent, He’s with us, working in the places we can’t see. 

A wooden cross with mountains as the backdrop—a reminder that Jesus is where we need to focus in difficult times

5. Choose to focus on uplifting things, not on the news or the negative.

6. Find worship songs that speak to our hearts and listen to them. Often.

7. Remember in eighteen months things will look different. Chances are good we’ll have navigated through this current hard time. And we’ll look back to see the growth of the seeds sown in our hearts and in the lives of those around us. 

Grasses reflecting early morning sunlight—peaceful and joyful in the feel of the photo

In our own past eighteen months, we’ve walked through testing, therapies, and have been stretched through required changes in how we do life. But, our boys have come through their trials and are adapting. We can laugh, argue, love freely. Everything isn’t perfect, but life is so much better, and we thank God for walking with us through our trials. 

When I look back to where I was eighteen months ago, I see the work God did and His faithfulness in always being by my side. This, friends, brings joy.

What about you? Where are you finding joy right now? What helps you when difficulty upon difficulty is piled upon you?

Click to Tweet: Sometimes joy is less a bold declaration and more a quiet resolution

I’m linking up with #TellHisStory and Anita Ojeda

*****Life can be hard. Do you ever need a little encouragement on this journey? I’d love to walk with you.I’m excited to share a 28-day devotional ebook with my newsletter subscribers. Join the journey by clicking the image to receive this gift and uplifting thoughts monthly.*****

36 thoughts on “Joy: 7 Thoughts for Cultivating Joy in Hard Seasons”

  1. Thank you for offering so much encouragement as you go through your own trials. It’s uplifting to see how you make the best of your situation with your family and find the joy!

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    1. Carol, I suspect many of us face multiple trials at once, don’t we? It just so happens everyone is navigating COVID on top of their other trials. I appreciate your encouraging words, and I’m saying prayers for you today!

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  2. These are the worst of days, but I am the worst of men.

    It’s hard to find a smile in this,
    unless it’s fierce with pride;
    cancer is a Judas kiss,
    and dreadful things betide,
    but I am on my f-ing feet,
    and damn well will not kneel
    nor will I give up, retreat,
    and I will bring to heel
    this monster that’s inside of me,
    the one I know so well,
    and I will claim the victory
    and shove him straight to hell.
    So, yeah, I guess, there is some joy
    for I am just a badass boy.

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  3. Thanks, Jeanne, these are great points and such necessary reminders. I struggled hard yesterday. It seemed that even my walk wasn’t giving me the joy I needed. I just couldn’t find it … I tromped through a nearby prairie and threw my temper tantrum. I sat there exhausted, blowing my nose and wiping my eyes … I felt more like the kid in the store who throws a fit in the isle than a mature adult.
    But then, He sat there with me. Reminded me of His promises. Gently. Kindly. Compassionately. Calming. “I will never leave nor forsake you!” What joy that was. His presence. Yes, “…His faithfulness in always being by my side.”
    THANK YOU, friend!

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    1. Heidi, I suspect we’ve all had those kinds of days. I’m so thankful you were able to have your “temper tantrum” and be met by our Father in that place in the prairie. He truly is a loving Father, isn’t He? I’m so glad He met you and filled you with more of Himself. Thank you so much for sharing so transparently! Sending you a hug across the miles.

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  4. Nodding my head in agreement here, Jeanne–joy is so often a choice.
    Thanks for your words, and I keep meaning to tell you that I’ve appreciated your newsletter, both for its inspiring content (like the devotional) and as a tutorial for the newsletter I’m planning to cook up as soon as I can wra my brain around the Mail Chimp magic.

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    1. Yes, Michele, joy IS a choice. I’m so glad you enjoyed the newsletter. 🙂 It was fun to write. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat about such things. I’ll say a prayer as you work on figuring out yours. 😉

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  5. I see too, Jeanne, that in 18 months we will be different and we’ll be looking back at this time as people with stronger faith, compassion and character. God brings us through, for sure. I admit that my cat is bringing me joy! She’s my company currently! And I do love hearing the Canada geese who have come back for summer, and the chickadees, finches, and sparrows that have discovered by bird feeder! Staying home does open our eyes to the blessings we have in our everyday. I hope you and your boys have a wonderful rest of the week!

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    1. Yes, Lynn! I hope we truly are looking back through a filter of a stronger faith, one that was forged in the current trials we face. I’m so glad your cat is bringing you joy! My youngest wants a cat, but we’re all allergic. I love that God’s given you a creature to fill you. and I know you have much beauty and birds around you. You’re right, being home has opened our eyes to the blessings we have in every day. Thank you for your wishes! Sending some right back at you!

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  6. Dear Jeanne. Cultivate joy. Oh yes, that’s an invitation that I’m pursuing. Looking for things to be grateful for. Speaking thanks outloud. Finding a gentle sense of humor. Hearing from God in those quiet times when nothing blocks His voice. Reaching out to others.

    Thanks for this post. Just seeing the title brought a smile to my soul.

    Have a good day, friend …

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    1. Linda, God keeps bringing things to my attention that shows the intertwined nature between joy and gratitude. I love your suggestion of speaking thanks out loud. I’m truly thankful for you and saying a prayer for you today.

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  7. Good morning, Jeanne. I’m finding joy in the simple things. I live in the country, so I’m able to get outside and work in my garden. I planted a few vegetables this weekend. My family gathers on the patio, and we share our days. I’m home for now, so my body has time to heal from the stress and exhaustion from traveling the past year and a half. I also have more time to write and to study God’s Word. I stay in touch with family and friends via phone calls and social media. I’ve learned to depend on God and do what you must to make it through the difficult seasons by doing some of the things you suggest. One of my favorites is music. Blessings!

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    1. Ahhh, Gail, living in the country sounds so appealing. It seems the older I grow, the more I yearn for the simplicity and the beauty that comes from a rural environment. I haven’t planted my little garden yet. I hope to plant it next month. I’m so glad you’re getting more stillness, time to heal, and time to be with God and to write. I love music too! it speaks to the soul in powerful ways. I so appreciate your sharing here today!

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  8. Beautiful post, Jeanne! I had a similar experience as you did with your boys. I was missing my grandsons, so my son suggested we go on a hike on a nearby rail-trail that is open, using social distancing for safety, of course. The boys trudged along at first, not wanting to hike. Within 5 minutes, they were scrambling over boulders and searching for the source of a little spring. Then we turned over rocks looking for salamanders. They didn’t want to leave! God’s good creation has a way of giving us joy. You are so right – we get to choose joy. Sometimes it’s just a little bit harder to find, like right now. So glad to read about the wonderful outcome of your excursion with your boys!

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    1. Awww, Laurie. I am so glad you had the chance to see your grandsons! How fun to watch them explore and discover streams and salamanders. 🙂 You’re so right, God’s creation does have a way of giving us joy. Your interactions with your grandsons made me smile. Boys and their boulders, right? 🙂

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  9. Jeanne, I especially appreciated your comment that “Sometimes joy is less a bold declaration and more a quiet resolution.” I think this hits the mark because we can tend to seek the big bold experiences rather than the quiet, soft experiences that can be so profound and life changing. And as you write, if we look for God’s fingerprints, his tender touch, in our lives we will find it. He is present, so we just have to open ourselves to him.

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Anne. I’m thankful our God is present in the small moments as well as the large ones, we do need to open ourselves to Him, don’t we? Thanks for stopping by!

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    1. Susan, I hope we are deep-down different too. It’ll be somewhat challenging to not slip back into busy, but we’ll have control over the choices we make about what we’re busy doing. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. I love seeing your boys enjoying the outdoors, Jeanne. I’m so glad things are better than they were. This is such good advice. Looking for God’s fingerprints. Remembering our Father’s character. Yes, these things help me, too. And now that Spring is actually here, it gives such hope. We have a house finch pair building a nest right outside my office window. So amazing. Yes, God will take care of us, too. I love this definition of joy – “Sometimes joy is less a bold declaration and more a quiet resolution.” Yes! Thank you for your encouragement here, my friend! Love and blessings to you!

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    1. Trudy, I loved seeing them enjoy being outdoors too! Spring is making an appearance here, too. Though I suspect we may have a little more snow in the forecast…knowing Colorado. 🙂 There is so much hope in spring, isn’t there? I’m thankful God reveals Himself to us in so many different ways. We just need to look a little more intentionally. Thank you for your sweet encouragement, my friend. Sending you love and blessings back!

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  11. Jeanne, I agree with Michele. Joy IS a choice. Like marriage, or Christianity in general. The old-timers called it “driving a stake.” You make a choice and you don’t look back.
    Where were you hiking with the boys? We used to live in the Springs.
    Thanks for your encouragement as always.
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Kathy, I agree. Joy is a choice. I like your definition of joy being a choice we make and we don’t look back. 🙂 The park we went to was on the northwest side of town in the Rockrimmon area. 🙂

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  12. Oh Jeanne … how encouraging it is to read how God brought your family through that difficult season and how it has strengthened your faith for such a time as this. Your seventh point, especially, resonates with me as I think back to my life a year ago and all that God has brought our family through. He never wastes a hurt, does He? And I’m so grateful. (Also a tiny bit jealous of the rocky places you are able to visit with your sons right now.) 🙂

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    1. Lois, Yes, God has been gracious and good. You have walked through A LOT in the past 18 months. You’re right. God never wastes a hurt. Rocks and boys go very well together. Sending you a hug, my friend!

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  13. I find number 3, choosing gratitude is always helpful, and once I start, the Lord always brings more things to mind! He is faithful! I also liked your idea to look ahead 18 months!
    PS were some of your photos taken at Palmer Park?

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    1. Kathy, the more I’ve considered it, the more I’m realizing how important gratitude is for us to be able to live with joy. Our Father is so faithful! Actually, most of these photos were mostly taken at the park we hiked at, which is in Rockrimmon. 🙂

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  14. This says it all —> “Sometimes joy is less a bold declaration and more a quiet resolution”
    There is a deep desire for joy in all of us that resides just under the surface of who we are. Teenage boys are a breed all unto themselves. Until they let go of the idea of having fun and just have fun they will be hesitant to enjoy the adventure for what it is.

    During this current time, I need to work intentionally each day to choose joy. I am thankful that God knows me for who I am and loves me anyway.

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    1. I like what you said, Mary, about how there is a deep desire for joy within each of us. I think you’re right. I’m hoping our boys will one day enjoy the outdoors and adventures more than they do now. 😉 I am with you, friend, finding that joy is an intentional choice many days. And I’m with you in being beyond grateful for God’s unchanging love!

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  15. Joy and grief often exist along side each other, both are good teachers. It’s kind of been that way for us since we are moving away from our son and family and toward our daughter and her family. Thanks God both of our children and grandchildren love us and enjoy our company. I have certainly put my time grieving though, change always brings that even if one is going toward a good change. It’s comfort to me to read others post and see how they have made it through the crisis. Keep putting out your encouraging words, its so needed.

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    1. I liked what you said, Betty, about how joy and grief often walk side by side, Betty. They are good teachers. I can imagine how your heart must yearn for the family that isn’t near you, especially right now. It’s a blessing that your children and grandchildren love you and love being with you. Change always seems to hold both sides—joy and grief—doesn’t it? Thank you for your encouraging words!

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