When was the last time you experienced real joy in your ministry? Deep, abiding joy–in spite of the busy schedule, the naysayers, the workload, the unexpected, the stress, the lack of appreciation, the sermon that bombed…again…? You get the idea.
Whether you’ve been in ministry for a brief time or many years, you know there are many things that serve to discourage you. Growth (numerically and spiritually) doesn’t happen as quickly as you would like. There are those who let you down. You compare yourself to others (which is always dangerous). The giving continues to plummet. And the same is true of your spirit.
How do you find real joy when your moments and days look like this? For me, I love to listen anew to some of the ancient conversations the early believers had with the Father. They prayed with such raw honesty: “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us” (Ps. 90:15). “Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you?” (Ps. 85:6). And one of my favorites: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Ps. 51:12).
Perhaps these early Christians could’ve taken a vacation, and that would’ve helped restore their joy. One needs to always ensure he or she is getting enough time away from the rigors of ministry for some genuine rest and relaxation. However, I’ve often found that the long awaited vacation or sabbatical alone doesn’t restore joy. Only God can restore true joy. The Christ-followers of long ago realized that. Further, they seemed to fight for joy in their prayers.
In a fallen world where there are so many potential joy robbers, we too need to fight for the joy which God sincerely wants us to have. Beyond asking Him to restore your joy, look into His Word with a renewed sense of anticipation. Jeremiah reminds us of how this experience can truly revive us:
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16).
The joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh. 8:10). Praying that you lean into the One who can restore your joy—your strength!
Enjoy the journey!