When You’re Struggling to be a Joyful Catholic

Thoughtful depressed young woman sitting with her chin on her hands outside a brick building staring down at the ground

I don’t often feel like I’m suffering well like the saints I admire the most (think St. Therese, St. Maria Goretti, St. Anne!), or that I’m very strong, or that I’m doing a good job of keeping it all together.

I actually more often feel weak, like I’m just barely getting by, and that I could be doing a much better job of it all…

But in the past few months, I’ve heard a few encouraging comments from family and friends that’s kept me going; my best friend told me that I’m strong — stronger than I think, my brother-in-law told me that he was impressed by my good attitude even when he knew I was feeling unwell, and my sister-in-law actually told me I was doing a good job with everything on my plate.

That’s perspective for ya; people on the outside see one thing, and me, on the inside, sees another. And my husband knows it too since he’s at home with me and also gets to see more of what’s inside than what’s outside.

I do wish I were as strong at home as I often try to be outside of our home with our family and friends.

I do wish I had that good attitude & smile on at home as often as I do when we’re somewhere else…

But it’s home, and when I’m at home, I’m in my haven; I’m not worried about trying to be strong or trying to have a good attitude. I’m a little more honest at home, and if I’m being honest, sometimes that means I’m not as joyful as I am outside of our home.

But maybe I should be, though…  because especially when we have children, I want them to see and know my hope and faith rather than just my fears and doubts.

I want it to be contagious for them — my hope and my faith, not just my fears and doubts. And I want this to be true for my relationship with my husband right now.

So I know that I need to intentionally work on being a joyful person. Because it’s what we’re called to do, actually. Because it’s a part of being Catholic. Because it’s a part of my vocation, especially as a wife.

St. Paul tell us it’s the will of God to rejoice always. St. Josemaria Escriva said that contagious cheerfulness brings others to follow the Christian way of life. And Pope Francis tells us we will only attract others to Christ if our witness is joyful.

See, we are all called to do the work of spreading the Good News for Christ — in all vocations, and it seems that cultivating joy — and exuding joy — is key here, especially at home if we want it to go any further.

Have you seen or met someone whose faith and joy were contagious? Just seeing them can make you feel better almost instantly.

A few weeks ago when Pope Francis visited America, there was this one picture of him that was contagiously joyful… and what a reminder of the goodness of God! Look at his smile.

Screenshot 2015-09-25 at 5.31.10 PM

Do you ever smile like that? Do you ever feel that joyful? Those are the questions I asked myself when I first saw this photo.

Maybe it takes a couple of cups of coffee (you’re not alone, fellow caffeine-addict!), or maybe it takes 10 Hail Mary’s, or some time after mass to quietly thank God for what He’s done or what He is currently doing in your life…

Maybe it takes a combination of all these things; of prayer, of gratitude, of coffee — to begin to feel a little less despair and a little more joy.

And that’s okay.

But sometimes even all three don’t work for me. Sometimes the hole is so deep, and the darkness is so heavy, that crawling out into the light and cracking a smile feels like actual work.

And it is.

It is work to be joyful, and sometimes I don’t prioritize that work.

But like I said before, maybe I should.

Because joyfulness is natural evangelization! And that’s what we are called to do — at home, in our workplace, when we’re going about our day and running errands.

And so I have to ask myself, I have to exam myself and my behavior, and my attitude, and my mood, and ask, “What kind of witness am I being today? Are people who run into me today going to say that God must be good? That He is loving? Or, will they see me and say that it’s not worth it to have faith?”

I’m not saying we should put all the weight on our shoulders and put a fake smile on so as to have people think that faith is not hard, or that we don’t have obstacles and crosses we’re carrying.

But I am saying that I do have to realize that I am being a witness — in whatever way and manner — of God’s love when I’m running about, and that it’s essential that I try to be joyful, because everybody is seeking Christ and I want to be able to help them find Him where He is; and our culture has a big problem of looking for the happiness that only He can provide in all other places but Him.

Curtis Martin writes, “That’s why it’s essential that we manifest this joy to those around us! If the people we seek to evangelize see us as angry, pessimistic, and unduly aggravated by problems within and without the Church, why should they want to become Catholic? No. We must show those around us that, because of Christ, we are joyful, undaunted, and hopeful, in spite of the problems and obstacles that may surround us.”

So even within our suffering, we are called to find joy within it, and we are called to share that joy.

If you have no idea how to begin doing that, just take a minute right now and read this scripture passage slowly — over and over again, and let it sink in:

Jesus told us, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33), and he told us this so that we would have peace within Him.

Whatever you need to do today to have a little bit of that peace within Him, do it.

Take a moment — or five if you can. Sit in silence and meditate on His victory. Remember that you are not alone today — or any other day that your’e struggling. Jesus is with you, and He is walking with you in those tough moments.

And the next time you’re faced with adversity, suffering, and chaos, remember that — that He is with you. 

Then, try to look back and remember what He has already done for you.

These two steps alone are what often get me through some dark days. When I can’t remember to do it, myself, I’ll sometimes have a friend or my husband remind me to do this. Consider this your reminder from me 😉 And maybe it’s a reminder your friend could use right now.

While being thankful for the work He has already done, you can move from sorrow to joy.

Sometimes it takes just a few minutes, and other times it seems to take all day. But keep making that list, keep practicing that gratitude, keep recognizing His truth, beauty and goodness, and you won’t be able to stay sorrowful.

I’ve found this to be true, and more recently, I’ve actually started a gratitude journal — where I write down all the things I’m grateful for — all the people who bring me joy, who bring me life, who bring me out of myself… that includes you! 😉

If you’re suffering to be a joyful Catholic, I just want you to know that you’re not alone; that even though you might know a very joyful Catholic that you see every Sunday at Church, I can bet that they’ve probably had their fair share of the blues, of doubts, of fears — and certainly, of crosses. Don’t compare yourself to them, and especially don’t compare your insides to their outsides.

We are all going to struggle here. It’s how we can help each other keep getting back up that matters. So that person you might notice at mass every weekend who always has a smile on their face? Maybe the thing you can takeaway from them is to keep trying to be more joyful yourself; not because they’re so much better at it than you are, or that they must have it easier than you do, but because they’re an example that they keep showing up to mass, they keep showing up with gladness with Him.

And maybe they’re fakin’ it ’til they make it.

And that’s okay.

Maybe we have to do a little bit of that ourselves, too, once in a while.

God will provide if we open up our minds and our hearts to what He can give us.

Cultivating joy, even while we’re suffering, is possible — and it is a gift.

It’s a gift, “nourished by a life of prayer, mediation on the word of God, the celebration of the sacraments and life in community.” (Pope Francis)

The idea is notto live forever,but to createsomethingthat will.

 

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  • Leslie Sholly

    This could have been written personally to me and I certainly needed to hear it. I do the gratitude thing, and I fully believe that exuding joy is the best way to evangelize, but I am a big old downer lately at home. Thank you for inspiring me to try to do better.

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      Aw, I know how you feel, Leslie! I can be a big time downer once in a while 🙂

  • MrsFarmer

    I’ve always been a very positive person (like my Dad!), but the heavy and long, long cross of infertility has crumbled me in a way that I never thought possible. Many days I struggle under the weight of this cross; once in a while, Our Lord mercifully lets me catch a glimpse of the blessings hidden in infertility.

    Know that you are not alone in struggling under the enormous weight of this cross! Many prayers for you.

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      Thank you! 🙂 We do all have our crosses…

  • I love this! That Curtis Martin quote is awesome. I think it is so important to remember our call to be a joyful people. Yes, bad things happen, and there are times of sorrow. But even in the most sorrowful moments, we can still have that joy, hope, and trust in God’s abundant goodness! I think it’s really cool that you mention this is important work to prioritize, for it IS work at times, even for the most upbeat people! Thanks for this awesome reflection, Annie!

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      Totally! I consider myself upbeat and it’s still work 😉

  • Amy Elizabeth

    <3 If I had your address, I'd send you a box of joy!! Listen, this may sound like it comes from left field . . . but, it's also ok to take an anti-depressant for a little bit! Years ago when I was really down I went to a counselor. Long story short, I talked to a priest and he said it's ok! I'm back on it (lexapro) again because of anxiety. Lexapro is amazing and I tell everyone I know this! The little pill I take at night ain't nothing compared to the pride I swallowed when I decided to take it again! And remember one more thing – sometimes God wants what we want too! Don't stop dreaming and hoping! xoxoxo

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      You are so so so sweet Amy!! <3 So glad to know you!! 🙂

    • CheeseWhore

      Amen! Brintellex has been my lifesaver.

  • KAM

    I am drawn to your blog even though I am now a widow, one year and seven months. Married just under 27 years. I thought I would have my best friend and soul mate to share the rest of my life, but he was gone after 8 months of treatment. My heart is broken. I get down like never before, seems to go in cycles. I pray, pray, pray. God is good, he listens and answers. A priest once told us how to know that God is answering us, to know what He is telling us. God allows thoughts to come to our mind. Is it a good thought? If the answer is yes, it is from God! Keep listening. He is patient. Be still.

  • Chai Trzos

    I really needed this today. Lots of stuff I’m doing and I feel like an old tennis shoe in a dryer. I struggle with physical pain (aches, pains, allergies, migraines, hormonal issues). I home school and have one child who tries to take the short cut every day. I live with my mom who has memory issues. And my husband likes things to be “just so”. Most of the time I’m ok. But sometimes I struggle with keeping a good attitude. Sometimes I think I’m doing all right and then hubs comes along and tells me what a Debbie Downer I am. Whew. I pray. I pray…I pray.

  • Sterling Jaquith

    Love this! Just like I’ve been enjoying Heather’s 31 Days of Joy too! My hope is that this holiday season, Catholics shine so brightly of joy instead of stress or anxiety that people can’t help but ask us, “Why are you so happy?”

  • Kathy

    Thank you for writing about being a joyful Catholic! I have been struggling with a few crosses lately and I needed this beam of light! Thanks Annie for reminding me what a difference we can make to others by carrying our crosses joyfully! God bless!

  • Stephanie Landsem

    Thank you. This was a great reminder to me today. Joy is contagious!

  • Elaine

    Thank you for the directions of words of encouragement and wisdom.

  • Kate Wilson

    I thank God I found you! Whilst reading your article here I read the passage three times. This made me think of the word courage. What is courage? What does it actually mean? How can I imply it in my life with the daily struggles and joy I have? I can relate to your post so much. I often wear that fake smile, but it finds a way of becoming genuine especially when met with a parent at school who tells me I’m doing a good job or points out how pale I look (I admire the honesty of people and it never gets me down). Thank you so much for this post I shall now reflect on the word courage. Have a blessed day and keep up the good work, God’s work x

  • Ashley Williams Haycraft

    Thank you for writing this! I really needed to see how others are not always strong or joyful either. Honestly, there’s times I feel like a hypocrite because I smile to the rest of the world, but then at home, it seems like I’m doom and gloom all the time. Entrusted with the responsibilities of 6 other little lives, keeping a house running, being a wife, a friend… the list just keeps going. I don’t want to be that kind of example to my kids either, thank you for suggestions on how to work at becoming the best I can be in this vocation. I will be praying for you as well!

  • Ellen

    Thank you so much for these words! It is just what I needed to read this morning! I ask God all the time to show me the way and this morning when I saw this post all I can say is God is always with us! He knows what we need when we need it! May God bless you and your family:) Thank you for letting God lead you😊

  • Kenzie

    Thank you so much for that article! I find it so hard to be joyful all the time when it seems like my life is going nowhere. This has given me hope (especially since I am a fellow coffee drinker😁☕️) This truly spoke to me where I’m at and love how down to earth and relatable this is! I will do my best to be joyful in all things! Thank you again and God bless you!

  • Ochanya

    Thank you very much for these words of encouragement. May God Bless you and yours!

  • Corine

    This brought me to tears. Timely Annie!