Image courtesy of Microsoft
Really? You want me to do what??? And I’m supposed to think that will help? In a word? YES!
Does the thought of building joy cause a cynical smile or do you doubt that it will help much? Little things, like TNT can pack a powerful punch. Here is what joy can do for you.
It may feel weird or foolish
When Chris first started learning about joy, he was pastoring. It felt a little foreign to him because he was so task oriented. He felt, “Who has time for joy? I have work to do!” But as he started practicing joy he found that the more joy he grew, the more he could share with the people around him. It changed the environment where he was working and pastoring. You can expect that it will feel strange.
Practicing joy is like writing with your left hand when you are right handed. It is very awkward—not impossible, just awkward. It doesn’t “feel right.” However, if you keep at it, it becomes comfortable and even legible! It always feels awkward when you first begin a new thing. I used to tell my English students that something worth doing was worth doing wrong until you got it right. We know joy is a “right” state of being, our brains need it, so it is worth putting up with the awkwardness until it comes naturally!
Benefits of Joy
- Joy provides endurance and strength. You can face pain. The more joy you have, the more you can handle what you feel without “loosing it!”
Jesus said the joy that was set before him enabled Him to endure the cross. Relational joy doesn’t make problems go away, but it keeps the relationship bigger than the problems.
- Joy helps you recover from upset; which is a good thing. You want to recover when things go wrong, otherwise at night instead of sleeping your mind races because you worry or you are upset about something. Those in leadership face daily challenges and problems from which they need to recover.
- You can persevere through trials. Joy gives you the strength to be a good leader. Hardship becomes one of the best opportunities to show your character and to be an example for other people. When joy levels drop you are more prone to do and say things that you may regret.
- Joy gives you strength to live according to your faith and your values. Sometimes when you are overwhelmed, hurt or frustrated, feeling accused, wronged or misunderstood it is easy to forget what is important. Joy is your anchor during the storm. It helps you to remember what is important and to respond in a way that shows a Christ-like character.
Signs of Low Joy
- Much more susceptible to burnout. You begin to go through the motions of life and ministry. You forget what is important and start to get your needs met in other ways, whether working to hard or too much. The thing about burnout is that there are always warning signs that burnout is around the corner.
- No longer resting. If you are not resting, you are not quieting and that is a warning sign. When Chris was pastoring he was pretty much burning out. His health started to give away; his marriage was strained; every part of his life was feeling strain—all for the good of the ministry. One of the issues he had overlooked was the need for relational joy.
- Susceptible to moral failures—Leaders are very good at giving and getting things done, but in the process can break their relational backs. High joy levels give strength and help prevent moral failures.. One of the ongoing observations at Shepherd’s House is #1 there are always warning signs that the plane is going down, and #2, low joy precedes disaster. Just because I have low joy doesn’t mean I’m going to have a disaster. Low joy is the common ingredient in all the train wrecks that Shepherd’s House is called in to consult and repair.
- The absence of tender responses to weakness. Tender responses to weakness or the lack thereof is another factor in whether the joy levels in a group are high or low. It is common for pastors to feel they don’t have the right to have a problem, or talking about their problem is going to use up too much precious energy. They feel they must keep their lives together, to sound good and make it look good because they are the example. Internally, however, they run on fear and fumes and are not satisfied, not content. So part of joy as a result of a tender response to weakness is learning to share our weaknesses.
Sharing weaknesses helps our joy levels to grow when people respond in tender ways.
Check Your Joy Stick as well as your dip stick!
- Does your face light up when you see your spouse of your children, your staff or your congregants? That is always a sign of your joy—how are you expressing it? It is very easy with your spouse to assume that he/she knows that you love her/him without actually conveying or showing it or saying, “Honey, I really love you and I want you to know that!” The expression of your care is very important. .
- “What is on your face?” Whose face lights up to see you? Do you have people in your life who are genuinely glad to see you? I hope so.
- What do you notice on God’s face toward you? Chris’s memory of growing up in the church was feeling like God was angry with him. Whenever he would think about God his mental image was that God was mad at him and he didn’t particularly want to share his weaknesses with an angry God.
Aaron’s Blessing versus BEEPS
One of the beautiful things about the Emmanuel lifestyle is being able to interact with God and learn what is really on God’s face toward you. If you receive the instruction of Aaron’s blessing, then God’s face would be shining on you. That is a wonderful thought that God’s face is shining on us. When those joy levels begin to drop, we start to replace the need for joy with what Ed Khori has come up with that he calls BEEPS. You may turn to:
- BEHAVIORS to help you feel better, important or worthy
- EXPERIENCES that replace joy levels or fulfill a need
- EVENTS (concerts, races, rock climbing competitions-adrenalin)
- PEOPLE (forbidden fruit)
- SUBSTANCES to make you feel better (food, alcohol, drugs, etc.) These are all expressions of what happens when your joy levels start to drop.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
For those in ministry, a very common BEEP is to overwork. When Chris was burned out, (and my husband David also) their identities were based in what they were doing. As long as they were pastoring, speaking, serving and doing all the things that they felt were important to do, they felt of value. But the moment they started to pull back to rest there was a bit of a crisis.
What they needed was to start growing some relational joy. The realization that his joy levels were low is the reason Chris is in ministry today. On the outside he appeared together and successful, but on the inside he was running on fumes. It was time to stop, drop and roll. There was an imbalance. When you are on a teeter-totter by yourself it is not a lot of fun. Something is out of whack.
When your joy levels begin to drop you are vulnerable for artificial expressions of joy and you will notice these especially when you are tired.
- When you are feeling ragged, run down and tired you are going to notice that you are drawn to an artificial way of growing joy or an artificial way of quieting which would fall into under the BEEPS category.
- When you are feeling alone or lonely you are going to notice a desire for something to make you feel better. What you really need are people who are glad to be with you and who can share some of what you are going through.
- When you are overwhelmed, upset and distressed what you need are people who can share, people who are glad to be with you in the middle of your “yuk” however when we try to fix these things and deal with these things on our own, we often can get ourselves in some trouble.
God wired people for joy. There is really no way around this point. When God created you in His image joy was a major part of that image. That means that you were created for relationships where people are glad to be together.
So what is an action step you can take today?
- Think of a time of joy when you were glad to be with Jesus, or a friend or family member.
- Savor the feelings that memory brings.
- Share that joy with a friend, co-worker and with a family member.
See what happens. See how the mood lifts and share with us here! Sharing joy can become addictive…and that’s a good thing!
Blessings, Carol, B.A., M.A.C.I.