July 23, 2020

Joy Competencies (Part 2): How to Make Joy Our Lifeline During Hard Times

How do you become more joyful?

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the second of a two-part series. You can find part one HERE.

Joy is a powerful virtue that can counter the negative effects of difficult or turbulent times. Cultivating joy requires focusing on specific competencies that reshape the way we live and even absorb the negative information that saturates the world right now at a micro and macro level.

In this second post, I will discuss the last 2 of 5 joy competencies that have the potential to transform a season of difficulty into a time of opportunity.

Joy Competency 4: Experience Spiritual Joy.

Difficulties can help us realize what is important. During crises, we may worry about food, clothes, safety, jobs, health and other basic needs. To put it differently, crises naturally activate our survival mode. This way of functioning can lead to challenging collective dynamics that deeply disconnect people from each other.

Spiritual joy is finding a way to reconnect with what is sacred and beyond ourselves. In other words, it is seeing beyond ourselves and our own needs. This type of joy allows us to 1) stop trapping ourselves with negative thoughts, 2) remember things that are valuable to us, and 3) contemplate and pursue those valuable things.

Some ideas to consider:

  • Difficulties reveal the strengths and limitations of the values on which we build our lives. Pause and evaluate the values your life is expressing. Are they really life-giving? Are they strong enough to sustain you and yours over the long haul? Do they bring joy or despair? Spiritual joy is fueled by values that are solid enough to carry us through hard times.
  • Explore what it means to pursue simplicity, beauty, justice, truth, gratitude, forgiveness, or love. Such concepts have a history of helping us to focus on what is beyond ourselves and elevate us to what is beautiful. Spiritual joy is also fueled by what is beautiful at various levels. The more threatening and disheartening an event we face is, the more we find simple acts of humility, love, brotherhood, and care beautiful. Ask yourself, “What would deeply bless me at such time as this?” Then do it freely for yourself and others.
  • Hearing alarming news constantly can discourage and frighten us, and even shape our perception of the world. Spiritual joy enables us to see hope where it really exists. How can you fuel your hope and bring hope to others around you? Look for and share stories that remind you how crises are opportunities to see ourselves and the world with open eyes so we can refocus on what really matters.

Joy Competency 5: Reconnect with your Vocation.

This fifth joy competency can offer us the opportunity to reset. To understand the meaning of vocation, we first need to explore the Greek word telos. Telos refers to an ultimate purpose or end goal. From a Christian perspective, telos points to what is good and what “should be” according to God. It points to an initial intention for humanity or overarching project for the world. From this perspective, vocation is how we live a telos in the here and now.1 Vocation is finding our place and role in God’s larger story. It is living now with the end in mind.

Some ideas to consider:

  • What is your ultimate goal? What is the meta-narrative that has captivated your attention and energy so far? Does it make sense? Reading sacred texts, such as the Bible, can sustain and inspire us to find our way and remain stable through disruption. For example, Matthew 7:24 reminds Christians that building their lives on a solid foundation or meta-narrative, will allow them to be stable in times of difficulty.
  • Play your “bigger game.” This concept, developed by Rick Tamlyn2, encourages and dares people to live with a compelling purpose3. Every person has a unique set of competencies, gifts, talents, culture, experiences, and relationships that uniquely qualifies them to address specific issues that impact the world. Vocational joy activates when we begin “to play our bigger game” in alignment with our individual meta-narratives. When we start to creatively solve problems or effectively address certain issues from a place of purposeful meaningfulness, vocational joy fills our hearts.

Spiritual joy and vocational joy are connected. They fuel each other. Spiritual joy is all about rediscovering life-giving values, while vocational joy is living out those values with purpose and courage. More than ever, our world needs people who dare to live differently, are open to new possibilities, and exemplify a purposeful life of joy that creates value for both themselves and the world.


1. King, P. E., & Defoy, F. (2020). Joy as a virtue: the means and ends of joy. Journal of Psychology and Theology(2020).

2. Tamlyn, R. (2013). Play your bigger game: 9 minutes to learn, a lifetime to live. Hay House.

3. See

Frederic Defoy PhD student in the Psychological Science program at Fuller Theological Seminary. He served as a Thrive Scholars Fellow from 2018-2020


Continue Exploring

Family laughing at home


Practices to Boost Positive Emotions at Home


Living at the Intersection of Joy, Meaning, and Balance

    You Got It!