Life is filled with seasons—one minute you’re surrounded by great friends and the next you feel completely alone. In my own life, I’ve had my fair share of hardships, heartache, loneliness, doubt, and even depression. But whether everything is going better than we could imagine or things are falling apart, we’re always searching for more. And that’s why finding happiness can seem impossible. Trust me—I’ve been there. But I’ve learned that finding happiness is possible—just not the way I was expecting.
From day one, it seemed like my life was going to be filled with challenges. When I was a few months old, my mom noticed that when I started crawling, I dragged myself around using only the right side of my body. My parents got concerned and consulted some doctors who confirmed that I had mild cerebral palsy on my left side. They told my parents I may never be able to walk, and from that moment on, my childhood was filled with surgeries, therapy, and plastic orthopedics with purple Velcro.
While other kids were running around playing soccer, I was receiving injections to stimulate my muscles. While other kids were taking piano lessons, my left hand could never keep up. I learned that people often fear what they don’t understand, and as a result, the early years of my life were isolating and full of hurt. I was grasping for happiness and couldn’t seem to hold onto it.
I had one or two friends who would sit with me during recess sometimes, but most of the kids made fun of me all through elementary and middle school. Middle school girls can be ruthless, and many of their words left scars that took years to heal. At eleven years old, I even got to a point where I considered suicide.
It was during this time that I cried out to God and asked Him to show me a sign that He was there. And let me tell you—when we cry out to the Lord in the darkest valley, He is faithful to carry us through it. I started finding encouragement through God’s Word. I found incredible promises of His goodness and faithfulness, and I learned He would never leave me.
That didn’t mean my problems immediately went away. And I still was searching for happiness in all the wrong places. In high school, I tried finding happiness from a relationship. At this point, my casts were gone and my limp was almost unnoticeable. I was so excited that a guy liked me that I tried to hide a part of who God made me to be. I felt like if I could just hide my story and my struggles, then I wouldn’t be the girl who sat alone anymore—I’d find happiness. And my plan worked—until the relationship ended.
That’s the thing about searching for happiness—you’re always searching. Finding happiness is a moving target; you’ll always want your circumstances to change, and your eyes are always on the next season. When you finally have that dream job, the dream house, that group of friends you do everything with, or he finally put a ring on it—you continue searching for the next thing.
I finally discovered that there’s a big difference between happiness and joy, and I’d been pursuing the wrong one. Happiness is fleeting. It depends on external circumstances. But Scripture refers to joy in context of pain, loss, betrayal, and hardship.
See, joy doesn’t come from our situations—it comes from God. As followers of Christ, this is an amazing truth we can hold onto! Jesus said in John 15:4 NLT, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
See, joy is one of the many fruits of the Spirit. When Jesus said we cannot bear fruit unless we abide in Him, He was reminding us that joy comes from spending time with Him. Because joy doesn’t come from an event, person, or accomplishment, but is found in the presence of Jesus.
If we were made to abide in the Lord, that means we are called to live every day in His presence. Just as Adam and Eve walked with the Lord and saw Him face to face in the garden of Eden, our Heavenly Father wants to walk through each day with us. And His presence is the source of our joy.
When I choose to spend time with Jesus, I feel His comforting presence when I cry out to Him in my car and tears stream down my face. I experience the unexplainable peace of Jesus when I am sitting at my desk overwhelmed by the day ahead of me. I have found my source of joy, peace, and contentment. In every moment, the Lord is there waiting for me to look up and abide in Him. So today—whatever season you find yourself in—ask Jesus to walk through it with you and take time to sit in His presence. When we choose to do this, we will find more than happiness; we will find joy!