When joy is hard to find

There are seasons of life when finding any spark of joy feels impossible. Whether it be financial hardship, death, infertility, depression, marriage troubles, or sickness, finding joy when life is piling on difficult circumstances can seem futile. 

At the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 I experienced two back to back miscarriages.

We had been trying for our third child for five months when I saw the two pink lines on Christmas morning. I was elated! Two days later I started bleeding. I would have been about 4 weeks along. 

At the end of January I got another positive test! This time all seemed well. I went to my 8-week appointment and was hit with the news. The baby had no heartbeat. I went home and had to wait to miscarry. 

How do you find joy when what you have been dreaming and praying for you is ripped away? 

1. Seek God for peace. Don't ask for answers or a solution, just peace with circumstances. There will be many things we go through in life that we will never have an answer to "why" but that doesn't mean we can't have peace about the experience. Peace may not come easy and it may not come right away, but seeking God is what will bring you there. 

During the miscarriages I spent all my Bible time in the Psalms. It was the first time I could really understand the anguish David wrote about. 

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:1-4

In Luke 8 Jesus asks his disciples, "Where is your faith?" (v.25) after he calms the storm. In Matthew 14 Jesus asks Peter to follow him out of the boat and walk on the water. Peter follows but as soon as the wind came he starts to fear and sink. Jesus asks, "Why did you doubt?" (v.31). Jesus has the power to be the calm in any storm we face if we focus on Him. The storm may not disappear but our view of the storm can change. 

2. Don't fight the tears. The night of the first miscarriage I went into the shower and sobbed. I didn't even have the energy or strength to stand so I sat on the floor and let the tears flow. I probably sat there until the hot water started to fade. After I finally emerged I felt a weight lifted, even just a minute one, because I had acknowledged the hurt and let it flow through me rather than stuffing it down to put on a strong front. Each time I felt the sadness building and the tears coming I had to give myself permission to grieve and let the emotions flow. 

3. Seek support. Support during a difficult time can come in many forms. Micah was a huge rock during both miscarriages. He was obviously hurting as well but he took care of me and the kids so that I could focus on healing. During the second miscarriage both of our moms visited to help out. They did simple tasks like dishes, laundry, and cooking, plus spent time with the kids. If I wanted to talk they were there to listen but they were also okay to just let me be and process as needed. Several friends sent cards, support messages, and prayers our way as well. It was a great source of comfort to feel the love from so many areas in our life.

Do you have a place you can turn to for support during a difficult time? I was and still am a member of a local MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) group that has been such a blessing in both good and hard times. Being surrounded by moms in the same stage of life as me helps navigate these early years. 

Besides your spouse do you have a trusted friend? Group of friends? There are great resources online for support for pretty much every circumstance you can imagine. Not all will be a great fit so seek one that promotes healthy ways to overcome. Perhaps ask those friends, groups, church leaders, etc., for recommendations. 

4. Choose to express gratitude. This is as hard as finding joy but if you break it down to the most basic of basics you can find so many things to be grateful for, even in difficult times. When times are hard think about something basic like "I opened my eyes this morning" or "I have running water." 

Have you ever used a gratitude or thankful journal? Write down what you are thankful for in a list each day. No repeating! Start at #1 and number each item as you go. Start with the basics. All those parts of life that are so easy to take for granted. When you are having an exceptionally hard day look back and see what you have to be thankful for in your life. 

Do you have other ways of finding joy during difficult times?