By Martin Willoughby
My wife Nicki is a patient soul. She allows me to “tacky” up our house with various laminated reminders of things that I believe to be important. One of those reminders that I have on our refrigerator is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). While I immediately get a Sunday school tune in my head when I look at it, I also ponder whether this fruit is evident in my life. I have this Scripture next to another reminder which states, “Every day is a bonus day, make it count!”
These reminders and others help me refocus and recalibrate each day. In particular, I consider whether there is joy and peace in my heart. Scripture tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” (Philippians 4:4). Our joy as a follower of Christ comes in the deep humility of knowing the price that was paid for us—and what it really means to be an adopted child of God. While joy is from God and not “man-made,” I believe there are some common things that can rob us of our joy.
Living in a Hurry
I recently heard about some advice that the famous theologian Dr. Dallas Willard once gave pastor and author John Ortberg. Ortberg was in a busy season of life as his career was taking off, and he sought advice from his mentor, Dr. Willard. Willard told him that he must “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. ”Ortberg asked, “What else?” and Willard replied, “There is nothing else.” I believe that one of the biggest things that can rob our joy is to live a life in overdrive. Without time to think, reflect, and savor who God is then we become adrenaline fueled and disconnected from our Maker. Have your ruthlessly eliminated hurry in your life?
The Burden of Expectations
Nicki and I have been married over twenty years, and we were taking a walk recently and reflecting on life and marriage. We reminisced about how foolish we were as young married people thinking that we could change one another. We realized that it is only when we truly accept each other as who we are that contentment arises. Anyone with children (or grandchildren) knows the challenge of having an expectation of how a child will act or what they will say. It is certainly good to have hopes, dreams, and aspirations, but we can really lose our joy if we become fixated on the outcomes. I find the Serenity Prayer to be a great reminder on what I can control and what I can’t. What unmet expectations are robbing you of your joy?
An Audience of One
One of the biggest robbers of joy can be the words and actions (or inactions) of others. People can be downright mean. If you question that, go on some of the blogs out on the Internet and see how vicious people can be (particular when they are anonymous) or ask a middle school student. In our celebrity worshipping culture, it is very easy to seek our approval in the eyes of others. We too often give others the ability to determine our self-worth and dictate our emotions. Paul wrote, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? “Ultimately, we only have an audience of one – our Savior.Who are you allowing to rob you of your joy by their words or deeds?When is the last time you considered the opinion of your Heavenly Father?
I hope that your fall season will be filled with joy as you live each day to its fullest in Christ.
Martin E. Willoughby, Jr. is a frequent writer and speaker on faith and business and is the author of Intentional Faith (Main Stream Books 2014). He and his wife, Nicki, have two children, Ally and Trey, and live in Memphis, Tennessee.