I chose Joy as my ‘one word’ for this year because it is a spiritual health indicator for me. Let me explain...
At my obstetrician check-up six weeks after giving birth, the first question he asked was, “Have you had intercourse yet?” That was a confronting question! Then he explained why he was asking about my sex life. It was an indicator. If I had not healed physically from giving birth, if I were not coping with my role as a new mother, if I had severe sleep deprivation or post-natal depression, the answer would be ‘No.’
Aparently, sex is the first thing to disappear from a new mother’s life when she is not going well. It is an indicator of general health and well-being.
For me, joy is an indicator of spiritual health and well-being. When I'm not doing well spiritually, joy is the first thing to disappear from my life.
I lose my joy when my eyes are on my circumstances
Like Peter, I get overwhelmed by the size of the waves and the ferocity of the wind. I look at my storm, and I am filled with fear, not faith; worry, not joy.
Jesus invites me to look to him, the author and finisher of my faith. He is mighty to save. He invites me to ask him for help. He is the king of heaven's armies, and he is fighting for me. I simply need to lift my eyes and trust. That is where I find my joy. Not in denying my circumstances or giving up on the challenges before me, but in trusting in a God who is strong enough, and holds all things in His capable hands.
I lose my joy when I live in my own strength
Life can be simply tiring. Life in ministry is utterly exhausting, at least, when I try to do it alone it is. Being a pastor, it sometimes feels like the weight of the whole world is on my shoulders. And believe me, there’s no room for joy when carrying that weight.
God is so incredibly generous! He offers us everything we need to accomplish all he calls us to. When we rely on Him, we have all we need.
I lose my joy when I neglect to spend time in God's word
Busyness and distraction rob me of my joy. It doesn't even need to be meaningful busyness. It's usually things like shopping, watching TV, craft, flipping through my Facebook feed; all the normal things that keep my mind occupied on worldly things. But, God's word brings my perspective and focus back on what is most important. God's word builds my faith, reminds me of the character and power of God, and fills my heart with joy once again.
I lose my joy when I try to keep everyone happy
My friend has a saying on her wall, “You cannot make everyone happy. You are not chocolate.” I may or may not have printed it for her. Trying to make people happy is exhausting and futile, and yet, we devote ourselves to it! As a woman, and especially as a woman in ministry, I can forget who I am in Christ and seek to meet the demands of those around me, trying as hard as I can to make them happy. The truth is that I am not responsible for other's happiness.
I need to love people out of an overflow of God's love for me, with His heart, and in His strength. Not because I am seeking their approval or appreciation, but because I am a devoted disciple of Jesus. The motivation of my heart makes all the difference.
I lose my joy when I neglect to rest
It's hard to rest. There's always so much to do! Rest is inconvenient, time-consuming, unproductive, and not socially celebrated. Rest is counter-cultural. And, rest is essential for my health and wellbeing. I don't just need enough sleep; I also need awake rest time. Time to think, time to chat, time to wander, to daydream, to play.
When I don’t take the time I need to rest, physically and emotionally, my stress levels go up, I get overly emotional, I find it hard to make decisions, and I get cranky with my family; the people I love the most.
So, this year, joy is my indicator of spiritual health. I will monitor my joy level, and when it gets low, I will examine what is going on in my life that is out of balance.
Is joy an indicator of your spiritual health? What is the first sign that your spiritual health is declining?