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Toward Wholeness Blog

Surprised by lack of joy – and what to do about it

There are lots of reasons people cite for their loss of interest in faith, but one of the main reasons I have often hear stems from the perception that God’s people are boring, sad, anxious, narrow.  “I just think that life should be joyful; and many Christians I know aren’t.”

I was able to hear the same perspective from an honest insider today who said, “I’ve been living my Christian life for two decades now, but one of the things I’m struggling with is that I don’t have much real joy.  Can we talk about that?”

It’s was a great, wide ranging conversation, and I’d like to summarize a few important thoughts about joy and ask you to keep the conversation going by participating in a survey at the end.   Joy is a source of strength in our lives, but I’m convinced that we don’t need to simply wait around, hoping that somehow joy will find us.  Instead we can nurture the soil of our lives so that we’re receptive to joy.  How does that happen?

1. Embrace Your Brokenness – Seek Companionship.  Lots of Christ followers talk about salvation in such generic terms that they don’t see, in any real way, what they’ve been delivered from.  When asked, they might say, “Christ saved me from God’s wrath” or “I’m saved from hell” – but the good news of Christ’s work is that it saves us in thousands of real, practical, daily ways too.  Each of us have areas in our lives that are broken, and ways of coping that might feel good for a moment, or even a season, but are ultimately self destructive.  Some of us, because of the pain of our lives, work too much, others not enough.  Some are afraid of sexual intimacy, others are addicted to it.  Some drink too much, others eat too much, or run up their credit cards buying stuff they don’t need.  Others have anger issues.  But here’s the point:  everyone is being saved from very particular and specific ways that are ultimately self destructive.

If we can’t identify these ways, then the whole faith thing becomes irrelevant for daily living.  When that happens, we’ve no practical need for Christ’s help each day.  When that happens, relationship dries up.  When that happens, joy dries up, because all we have are duties.

Know your own issues, on the other hand, and you know that you need to Christ every day.  You  need Christ to choose freedom, to be delivered from your own self destructive choices,  to be free.  If you need Christ, in practical ways, then you turn to Christ.  When that happens, Christ becomes a real and vital friend.  He’s both a source of strength for the journey, and a source of comfort and forgiveness when we revert back into self destructive choices and patterns.  We needn’t stay there long.

I find this sense of companionship to be the foundational ingredient for the experience of joy in Christ because to the extent that Christ’s companionship is real to me, I’m better able to do the second things which helps nurture joy:

2. Look for gifts – Practice Gratitude.  Jesus said that one of the big problems people face is that of having eyes, but not seeing, or ears but not hearing.  Paul the apostle said that an overwhelming problem with humanity is that, though God is constantly showering gifts down on us, we often fail to perceive them or give thanks.  There are lots of reasons for this, but one of the biggest problems in the faith community is that I think we’re often fixated on some very narrow expectation of what God ought to be doing for us and if that isn’t happening, we won’t be satisfied.  We’re worried about our job, or being single, or our marriage, or we want to make a big impact on the world and nothing’s happening, or we want to overcome our sin issues once and for all and we’re still struggling.  The result?  We become obsessed with this one big thing, and the preoccupation with it steals our joy, because God is showering us with gifts, but we’re too focused to notice.  What’s the solution?

Open your eyes – You have unresolved issues?  Health challenges?  Job disappointments?  People who’ve let you down?  Struggles with sin?  Welcome to the human race.  In the meantime, while those issues continue to ripen, why not enjoy what God’s given you today, and try to

cultivate a sense of wonder because of what’s all around you?

For example, today I enjoyed  1) mist on the lake, 2) good coffee at breakfast  3) 2 bananas 4) a good conversation during a walk through the forest 5) the amazement of the human body after 75 lunges 6) a person’s lovely eyes  7) the crunch of sunflower seeds in a salad  8) the privilege of preaching, even though the closing didn’t work out properly  9) the smell of wood smoke  10) yogurt 11) specific music 12) bagpipes at a baptism… and so it goes

If we wander through life lost in our thoughts, or our phones, we’re going to miss a thousand gifts a day.  I take lots of pictures as a way of forcing me to pay attention to the beauty of what God’s placed before me, and as a way of remembering.  Massive mountains or drops of rain on leaves, faces or food, God’s raining gifts down all the time and gratitude, coupled with companionship, creates joy.

Where do you find joy?<a href="" target="_blank">Take Our Poll</a>

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