Have you ever noticed that great joy follows a period of intense pain or anguish?

You encounter a series of pitfalls, or heartache, or stress, or sorrow, and then, suddenly, an unexpected and glorious joy arrives and gives you such a sense of happiness and peace that you are flooded by warmth, like sunshine invading every part of your body and lighting up your face and eyes and smile.

Anyone who has given birth, watched a child being born, or endured the anxiety from a waiting room understands this cycle of anguish and joy. Anyone who has had their heart broken and then found true love knows. Anyone who has eaten a warm meal after being broke and hungry knows.

Leon L. Caviness tells about a rich young man who had a series of disappointments that made him feel life wasn’t worth living. Lost money, lost family, lost love. Failures were stacking up for him. He had lost hope. He had no peace in his life. He couldn’t find joy, and love was gone.

This rich young man decided to end his life. On the way to the river where he intended to execute his final and fatal plan, he happened upon a homeless child. The child was dirty. His hair was a tangled mess. His clothes were tattered. The child begged for a little money to buy bread.

The rich young man, seeing by the drawn face of the child, realized the child was really hungry. He said to himself, “I will see that this boy gets one good meal before I die.”

The young man took the boy to a nice restaurant and ordered him a huge feast, a meal larger than this child had seen in his life. As the young man saw the child eat, a strange feeling of joy crept into his own heart. Then he thought, “If I commit suicide, the boy will soon again be as hungry as before.”

So right then, that rich young man decided he would make it his business to see that the child always had enough to eat. The young man had found happiness, for he had something to live for—a human being he could help.

When situations seem extremely bad or beyond repair, there is hope and peace in knowing that joy is on its way for those who believe.

Isaiah 35:4 says, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”

In our darkest days, we need to remember God will not leave us alone. He will give us hope and peace and joy.

More than two centuries ago, a young couple named Mary and Joseph had experienced hardship in getting to that manger in Bethlehem – but they ushered in the savior of the world. They not only experienced great joy, but were instrumental in ensuring that the world – all people for generations and centuries and millenniums to come – could experience the greatest and purest joy possible.

Joy is not a surface-level happy – it is deeply seated in our character. Joy may not always manifest itself in smiles and laughter, but rather in grace and assurance. Joy might be described as knowing something better exists, and holding onto that knowledge.

Joy is something we all desire. And instead of waiting for God to fill us with joy, we need to realize that God has already given us enough reason to be joyful. So we should seek joy.

How much better would life be if we looked for opportunities to experience joy in our trials? If we embraced every experience as a chance in which we could be joyful or spread joy – seek ways we could make a difference and help others experience joy – how would that impact the world and community we live in? How would that change our attitudes?

Whether or not we are joyful has less to do with our circumstances and more to do with our attitudes. We can make a conscious decision to look at our trials and find the joy. If we do that often enough, it will come naturally.

If you are experiencing great hardships, be like the rich young man and see how you can be a blessing in another person’s life. Find a way to serve others and you will transform your own life and attitude. You will find joy.