The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Well if that’s true, then I need a huge helping of joy right about now! I’m assuming you can relate? We are all so busy… especially with the holidays coming up. And our culture can be incredibly demanding. We are expected to fit so much into one 24-hour day that it’s hard to keep our heads above water. Is it possible to experience God’s joy when we’re so overworked?
I truly believe we were never meant to have so much on our plates. Yes, stress and pressure are a part of life. Most of our favorite Bible characters endured their fair share of struggle and hardship. I’m sure they felt exhausted and overwhelmed by it all at times. But today… we have busy work. We have to-do lists a mile long.
As a stay-at-home mom, I have cooking, cleaning, decorating, homeschooling, meeting the emotional and physical needs of my children (and my husband), my writing, errands, dance classes, Bible studies, trips to the library, etc. Never mind the simple things like getting a good night’s sleep and taking care of myself. Those often get pushed to the back burner in favor of more pressing items on my to-do list. And in the age of Pinterest, I’m now expected to be “super mom” and be creative and such.
Our strength comes from God alone, and His strength often comes in the form of joy.
…for the joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)
So how do we experience God’s joy in our lives?
We’ll start with a practical one. A pastor I once knew used an illustration that has stayed with me over the years. He took a mason jar and began filling it with rocks. He started with the small rocks working his way up to the big ones. By the time he got to the final big rocks, they wouldn’t fit. He dumped out the mason jar full of rocks and began again, this time putting the big rocks in first. Everything miraculously fit. When I plan out my day, I make a point to “put the big rocks in first.” In other words, I do what’s most important first. That way if I never make it to the small things on my list, it’s okay.
- Set the tone.
Here’s another semi-practical one. I say “semi” because it has more to do with my attitude choice than anything else. When I choose to remain positive, my day runs much more smoothly. I set the tone of my day by making sure to get a good night’s sleep, eating well, and making sure to set aside time for the things that matter most (prayer, Bible study, etc.) And when I’m having trouble staying positive, I listen to worship music. (It’s really hard to stay stressed when worshiping God!)
- Seek first His Kingdom.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
Remember the “big rocks”? I think it’s safe to say that anything involving Kingdom building would be considered a big rock. Am I investing into my kids and their spiritual upbringing? Do I spend time praying and interceding for those in need? Am I choosing to walk in love towards my husband? In all we do, nothing else matters more than His Kingdom.
- Live by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, meaning that living by Him and His power will naturally produce joy in my life. When it comes to my to-do list, it’s easy to forget that the Holy Spirit lives within me – that I have access to Him at all times. I hate to admit it, but I’m often guilty of setting Him to the side. I recognize His presence when I’m praying and spending time with God, but it’s easy to forget He’s there when I’m doing the mundane parts of my day. When I’m scrubbing the bathrooms, vacuuming, cooking, doing dishes… He’s always there. And He longs to empower me with His strength in all that I do.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13 (NIV)
If we want to experience God’s joy, we have to be willing to live by the power of the Holy Spirit.