How do you wake up in the morning?
- Sunnyside up?
- A little scrambled?
Maybe you wake up cheery.
Maybe you have to warm up to cheery; you need coffee, a shower, breakfast, etc.
I have to warm up. I get there pretty quick, but it’s not automatic; I’m a little scrambled for a short while.
How about you?
We’re all different, but what we have in common is the knowledge and desire for something deeper, an inner sense of joy, and a longing for it.
We know several things about joy.
- It’s a fruit of the Spirit.
- We all desire it.
- You can choose to cultivate it.
- It’s elusive under pressure, but you can have it even on difficult days.
- You can’t go the distance without it.
With all this being true, where does joy break down?
For context, we should keep in mind that the last couple of years of any leader’s life has stolen some joy, but take heart; it can be restored.
Let’s start by identifying some of the common thieves of joy.
- Unrelenting high levels of pressure
- Living outside your calling or serving in the wrong place
- Leading in a toxic or unhealthy environment
- Lack of close relationships and friends you trust
- Unresolved conflict at home
- Feeling unappreciated or unwanted
- Working hard but little results
Thieves of joy are real, but we must not allow ordinary circumstances to rob us of that joy. There will always be something waiting to steal it from you. It’s in the inner life that you cultivate with God that sustains true joy.
The absence of joy often manifests itself as discouragement.
Prolonged discouragement can drain your passion and energy and even leave a soul-level wound.
As Christian leaders, we must trust God for the potential of true joy, and if a thief comes and discouragement is the result, we have a road back to joy.
The Road Back To Joy
1. “Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship; it is a consequence.” (Eugene Peterson)
True and lasting joy cannot be summoned, manufactured, or purchased. Instead, it comes from a deeper place, an endless source, God Himself.
“We come to God because none of us have it within ourselves, except momentarily, to be joyous. Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality. It is life working together harmoniously. We can’t manage that for long on our own.”
Eugene Peterson, from “A Long Road of Obedience in the Same Direction.”
Therefore, joy can’t be found in lasting abundance when there is distance from God.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit — a gift of God that comes from continued closeness with Him and the endeavor to live according to His Word.
2. The presence of joy does not mean the absence of pain.
I’ve struggled to fully embrace the New Testament’s clarity about suffering in a Christian’s life, but it’s undeniable. It’s part of life, and further, we are called to share in Christ’s sufferings.