Sunday, September 14, 2014

Maintaining Joy: The Tools In My Toolbox

“Maintaining the joy of faith in the face of horrific evil does not hap­pen by coasting. It happens by conquering.” —John Piper, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”—Philippians

Joy is not consistently found upon waking up.  Most think that joy is a natural occurrence in the same way that ‘being in love’ on your first date should feel the same as ‘being in love’ after ten years of marriage.  Neither occurs without a determined decision. 

The way feelings work is counter-intuitive.  Larry Crabb delineates a process by which we arrive at our feelings: fact, faith, feelings.  We believe a fact.  We take that fact by faith.  Our feelings follow.  The process involves disciplined thinking wherein we choose to believe the truly right thing. 

Feelings are simply framed by perception.  I’ve found it helpful to define problems in terms of first world or third world problems (h/t GB).  Some weeks ago our washing machine stopped its agitating only to agitate us.  For many throughout the rest of the world the amount of clean water we use to wash clothes would provide basic healthy sustenance.  Framing the problem correctly keeps me from becoming anxious over my first world problems.

Work’s been a wearying battle lately.  The current trend in retail is to demand more from the employees while providing less for customers.  This frustrates me.  Learning to lead others stretches me outside my comfort zone.  I try leading with gentleness and patience.  Some days I lead well.  On others I let people down.  The wrong perspective would easily lead me into destructive behaviour.

I remind myself that God is in control.  He has the view from eternity.  I quote Spurgeon to myself,

 "The man who has got Christ has got everything. There are all things in one in Christ Jesus, and if you once get him you are rich to all the intents of bliss. What, have Jesus Christ, and be discontented? Have Christ and murmur? Beloved, let me chide you gently, and pray you to lay aside that evil habit. If you have Christ, then you have God the Father to be your protector, and God the Spirit to be your comforter. You have present things working together for your good, and future things to unravel your happier portion; you have angels to be your servitors both on earth and in heaven. You have all the wheels of Providence revolving for your benefit; you have the stones of the field in league with you; you have your daily trials sanctified to your benefit; and you have your earthly joys hinged from their doors and hallowed with a blessing; your gains and your losses are alike profitable to you; your additions and your diminutions shall alike swell the tide of your soul's satisfaction…”
In understanding that God has a greater purpose I realign myself with joy.

At the end of the day there is one other significant weapon in the arsenal.  Find friend or family to make you laugh.  On most days my close friends (and I include my wife among these) help restore perspective.  One person I know is fond of saying, “Tell me what I would tell you if the roles were reversed.”  Positive relationships keep us from being overwhelmed by closed thinking and thoughts only of self.

Maintaining joy is work.  It’s not always as easy as singing “The Sun will come up tomorrow.”  It’s a daily decision to hunker down and keep fighting.  The song in the night will be worth it when it comes---but it won’t come if you’re not engaged mentally.

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