How can I experience joy in my Christian life?

Anyone, even the most committed Christians, can experience times of sadness and feeling "down in the dumps." The Bible gives examples of this. Job wished he had never been born (Job 3:11). David asked God to take him somewhere else so he wouldn't have to deal with reality. (Psalm 55:6-8) Elijah, even though God had just sent down fire from heaven to help him defeat 450 false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:16-46), ran away into the desert and asked God to take his life (1 Kings 19:3-5).

Talk about having the "blues." So how do we move on and find joy when hardship comes? Even during hard times, these men overcame their troubles. Job is encouraged to pray and remember how blessed we are; God will bring joy and righteousness into our lives again (Job 33:26). David wrote that studying the Bible can bring us joy (Psalm 19:8). He also learned that he needed to praise God even in the midst of despair (Psalm 42:5).

You see, even when bad things happen to us, God doesn't change. He won't backstab or lie or hurt. And that makes Him an incredible source of encouragement in times of trouble. He will always be there for you. It's like the song by Casting Crowns, "Praise You in This Storm": "You are who you are, no matter where I am." Keep that in mind whenever you are in a storm of your own.

For Elijah, God allowed him to rest and then sent Elisha to help him out (1 Kings 19:19-21). Also, don't forget how important it is for us to have friends to help us through our struggles (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). We are simply not meant to be alone. Do you have a Christian friend that you can share your feelings with? They can pray for you and help you, and, who knows, maybe they've been through something similar.

Remember, dwelling on past experiences, our hurts, our problems, or ourselves will never make us happy. Ask for God's forgiveness, then forgive yourself as well—do not dwell on the issue. You might be temporarily happy from possessions, things or people, but only Christ is the center of real joy.

No matter how much you love your new cell phone, I guarantee it will never bring you Joy like only God can. Knowing God will help you understand yourself and glorify Him, instead of yourself (Philippians 3:3). If you put time into reading His Word, praying, and ultimately knowing Him better, your "joy will be full" (John 15:1-11).

So how do you find joy in your life? Basically, understand that God is the only true source of all joy (Psalm 51:11-12; Galatians 5:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). God's way is the best way. If you live a life that follows Jesus' teachings, even when bad things happen, you will be content where you are. No, not always "happy" in the sense that we understand it. To say that life is all red roses would be an awful lie. But the more we look for other ways to find happiness, the more miserable we'll become. God's way is only way that leads to true joy.

Kick back and relax in the comfort of God, and look for Him in His Word and through prayer. Be thankful for how blessed you are. Come to God whenever you're in a slump—and thank Him when you aren't feeling slumpy! Trust and allow Him to put a big smile on your face.

"So try this. The next time a sunrise steals your breath...or a meadow of flowers leaves you speechless...remain that way. Listen as heaven whispers, 'Do you like it? I did it just for you.' He could have left the world flat and gray, but he didn't. He splashed orange in the sunrise, and cast the sky blue. Did he have to make the squirrel's tail furry? Was he obliged to make the birds sing? And the funny way that chickens scurry. Or the majesty of thunder when it rings? Why give a flower fragrance? Why give food its taste? Could it be, he loves to see that look on your face?" — Max Lucado

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Jennifer is a teenager who likes to sing, play instruments, and play volleyball. God has blessed her incredibly with a wonderful church, family, and friends. He taught her so much on a recent missions trip to Mexico, and she can't wait to go again. She's joyful and likes to have fun.