How to be happy when life is hard?

Is something stealing your joy? Do you spend considerable amounts of time each day feeling upset, depressed, or sad? Do you know why you can’t seem to stay happy?

I suppose this is the golden question, right? I guess I should pipe up right now and confess that I probably don’t have the perfect answer. However, I do have some ideas and methods that have worked many times for me when I’ve been depressed or sad about my life. Getting into a slump or a negative mood will happen – no one’s exempt. But the important thing is, how long does it take you to get out of that slump?

Woman sitting and smiling. You can be happy during the hard times in life.

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What I’ve come to learn is that I can live in pain and depression. I can go days and weeks on end feeling sad or upset about my life. However, during this time, I’m not very productive or fun to be around. The other thing I’ve learned is that this isn’t how God wants me to live.

Let’s look at what God says in Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah was delivering a message from God to the people of Jerusalem, who were being held captive by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They would remain captive for seventy years before God would deliver them. If anyone has ever had a reason to feel upset, sad, or depressed, it’s people who become slaves or captives.

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But God reminded them that His plan for them was for a good future and a hope. This promised that things would improve and not remain unpleasant.

When upset or sad about your life or circumstances, the first thing to remember is that God created you for a purpose and He has a plan for you; a future and a hope!

What causes depression?

Well, surely, I’m going to upset a few psychologists here, but I would warn you that depression isn’t merely caused by imbalance or thinking yourself into a slump, but by a spirit; a spirit that isn’t of God. The spirit of Satan.

Isaiah 61:3 refers to “A spirit of heaviness.” There is no such things as heaviness, sadness, anger, hate, bitterness, sorrow, grief, jealousy, or any of these connected to the Spirit of God. Instead, what characteristics of God are shown to us in Galatians 5:22-23?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

None of these are negative emotions, thoughts, or attitudes. Instead, all that comes from the Spirit of God is encouraging and meant to edify others. If you’re struggling with any negative moods, thoughts, or feelings, especially fear or hopelessness, the enemy is at your door trying to take you down.

As someone who has spent a great majority of my life fighting depression, I’ve learned that it is, in fact, evil doing the harm. I’ve tried to fight depression with medication, but no avail. I’ve tried using affirmations and positive thinking, but no lasting effects. I’ve talked to many counsellors and have tried many cognitive practices to conquer the mood, but still, nothing truly worked; except when I turned to God and surrendered to Him. That’s when I found power and the true method for escaping the darkness of depression.

“True Joy comes from a deeply connected, one-on-one relationship with Jesus, even when life is hard.” Click To Tweet

Related: What Does It Mean To Surrender To God?

Are you living for God?

If you are struggling to maintain happiness and joy in your life, I have to ask if you are living a life to please God or yourself?

Each of us has a sinful, or fleshly, nature. Without God, we are spiritually dead and belong to Satan. But when devoted and surrendered to God, we are spiritually alive and have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. In this, we still have a sinful nature, but aren’t consumed by it.

So, when I ask if you’re living for God, I’m asking if you’re spiritually alive or dead? Satan attacks both, but only has power over one. If you live for God and surrender only to Him each day, Satan has no power or authority over you to control you. If you repent from living in sin and turn from evil altogether, Satan has no dominion in your life.

However, if you don’t live for God alone, then you’re divided and are giving Satan power to wreak havoc in your life. This is where he comes into your life and attaches his negative spirits to you, such as the spirit of depression, and causes all sorts of turmoil and despair. I’ve learned that the only real way to overcome depression is to overcome the negative spirit. The only way to overcome the negative spirit is through the power of the Holy Spirit. The only way to have the Holy Spirit in you is to be a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.

But at the name of Jesus Christ, both evil and good spirits obey. So, when a preacher says to cast the spirit off of yourself or someone in the name of Jesus, be sure to know that the spirit must obey. However, if there is sin in that person’s life, the spirit may return as that person is still giving the devil dominion in their life.

If you want to learn more about the devil and his tactics against you, check out my book, “Don’t let the devil defeat you.”

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Are you spiritually dull?

Living for Christ is a daily endeavor. It’s not a set it and forget it scenario. Jesus requires His followers to walk with Him each day, each taking a step alongside Him in the right direction; the direction He’s leading them to.

Luke 9:23
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

Jesus uses the word, “Daily” in this Scripture. Each day, God expects you to die to self and live only to follow Christ. If you do this, you’ll be walking the narrow path so many people struggle to stay on. But this is the path that leads to life and provides protection from the enemy.

There are a few things you must do regularly to keep in stride with Jesus. First, read the bible. The bible is the written word of God. It’s a living book filled with instruction and wisdom to help get you through this life while living for Christ.

Second, pray. Prayer is your direct lifeline to God. Thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, you can have immediate and direct access to God through prayer. When a believer prays to God, He hears them and answers them (John 15:7). Philippians 4:6 says to pray about everything. God wants to hear from you about everything and as often as possible. You won’t wear out His ears.

Third, worship Him. Sing songs of praise and worship to God. Thank Him for every good thing in your life each day. Don’t take things for granted, as they may soon be gone. See God as the Highest and most important part of your life. Put Him before everything that is near and dear to you, for everything you have has come to you either from the Lord, or because the Lord has allowed it.

Live like this and you won’t be spiritually dull. Instead, you’ll be filled to the brim with the goodness of God and the Fruit of His Spirit.

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Man from just above the waist down standing beside his guitar appears that life is hard right now

How to defeat the devil

Ephesians 6:10-17
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The Armor of God is your defense against the devil. There are five pieces of protection and one weapon, which is the Word of God. Knowing the Scriptures will arm you with the knowledge to fight the enemy. If you know who your enemy is and what his strengths and weaknesses are, you can defeat him. If you’re wearing protective armor, the blows and attacks that you do receive won’t fatally wound you. This daily choice to follow Christ is spiritual warfare. It’s a constant battle.

The devil attacks primarily through the mind. Knowing what types of thoughts come from God and which ones come from the devil will help you to win and walk in freedom. Living in depression isn’t a sin, but it does limit you from living God’s best. Instead of wasting time in sadness or depression, tell the devil to leave in Jesus’ name and turn to God. Put on His full armor.

First thing in the morning when you wake up, before allowing the first negative thought to take root, start thanking and praising God for every good thing you can think of. This is a quick way to defeat the devil right away and get on the right path for the day. Then, as the day progresses, be on guard and watch for the enemy. Pay attention to the thoughts you get and don’t let other people’s behavior get you down. This is a constant choice to focus on God and to trust Him.


Bad things can happen to good people

There is nowhere in the bible where I can show you that being a Christian will make you exempt from hard times or bad situations. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s like you’ll attract more difficult situations. However, these situations aren’t necessarily bad overall.

Even though the devil means to harm you, God can turn those attacks around for your good (Romans 8:28). Also, God often uses difficult circumstances to test His followers to see where their true faith and belief lies. See everything as a test. Even in the hard times, thank God for all that is good while trusting Him to deliver you through the storm. This is what pleases the Lord.

It’s not God’s will for bad stuff to happen to you. He doesn’t sit there thinking up ways to make you hurt or to cause you loss. Instead, He allows difficult situations because He knows that growth happens when you deal with adversity. Every experience will teach you a lesson, and every lesson you learn and apply will move you forward in life and aid in maturity. God loves spiritual maturity.

When depressed, sad, or scared, shift your focus to God. Focus on His written word. Look for promises from Him and believe them to be true for you. Instead of focusing on how bad your situation is or how much lack you currently have, think about the spiritual richness that you will receive from following Jesus. What do you stand to gain from the world or the things in it? How long do these things really last? If you get what you want right now, will it make an eternal difference for you? If not, is it worth losing time to depression over?

I’ve certainly had my share of hard times. I’m a slow learner, so for me, I get to take these tests over and over again. But I do know that ultimately, God’s Will, will prevail. I’ve learned that when I’m ready to surrender to God and stop the pity-party, God will help me out of my slump and help me find joy and happiness. But I’ve also learned that this joy and happiness doesn’t come from the stuff I’m trying to acquire or circumstances I’m living in, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s God who gives true peace and rest.


How to be happy when life is hard

Jeremiah 29:5-7
Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

This is the order that God gave the captives of Jerusalem. While in captivity in Babylon, God told His people through the prophet Jeremiah to live, be fruitful, and multiply. He didn’t say He would make sure every day was perfect and that He would prevent all bad things from happening. Instead, He essentially told them to be of good cheer, regardless of the difficult situation they were currently living in and to keep their focus on the good things that glorified God.

When you aim for spiritual maturity and strive to do things that truly glorify and honor God, you’ll find peace and true happiness. It won’t matter what situation you’re living in, either. There are people in jail or in war camps who can live each day in true peace and happiness in their soul. It’s not the circumstance that brings their joy, but rather, the peace from God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

There is an eternal glory that the followers of Christ will experience. It’s this eternal hope that God wants you to focus on. He wants you to walk with Him each day, following His ways, and to keep your mind on the things of above, and not on your current circumstances. If you’re in a situation right now that is difficult, do what you can to make it better. If you’ve done all that you can, then pray to God and trust Him to do what you can’t.

Through this, keep trusting Him that whatever happens, you’ll remain in His presence and that you’ll spend an eternity in His richness. This life is temporary and all that is gained and achieved will soon be forgotten by all. Don’t lose your life to your moods and circumstances. Instead, give your life over to God and vow to surrender to Him each day. This is where you’ll find comfort, contentedness, and true happiness. Don’t let the devil take your joy.


Trying to find complete happiness in this world is very difficult. You might have some good days and gain some stuff here and there that appears to bring happiness, but it’s often temporary. The devil, Satan, is working day and night to suppress you and to cause division between you and God. The devil wants you to be sad and depressed and hopeless because when you feel like this, you aren’t winning in life. You aren’t productive for God and you aren’t helping grow the Kingdom of God.

God wants you to be happy and to experience His richness and abundance; Satan wants you to suffer with him and to be depressed and eternally separated from God. You do have a choice. Do nothing and give in to the negative thoughts and emotions or make a choice to focus on God and all that is good.

Your life situations are just situations. They don’t have to steer and direct your moods. You don’t have to spend every day feeling depressed and defeated because you’ve made some past mistakes or because life got hard. Instead, God wants you to thrive in whatever situation you’re currently facing. He wants you to set your mind on the things above.

Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Do these and put on God’s Armor and you’ll find true peace and happiness, regardless of your current situations.

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, you can follow this link (Prayer for Salvation) to find out how. Also, if you need prayer for your life or your family, feel free to fill out a private prayer request in the provided prayer box in this article. My wife and I would love to pray for you.

Take care!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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