Do you feel like your spiritual joy in God has run dry? Do you long for the fresh joy that you once felt when you were a new believer? Are you doing everything you know how to in order to grow spiritually, but still feel stagnant?
I have felt this way many times in my life. Sometimes dry seasons are God-ordained, and we’re called to endure—He accomplishes miraculous things in the desert. Other times, dry seasons are self-inflicted by sin—in which the only way out is to repent that times of refreshing may come (Acts 3:19-20). But, sometimes neither one of those are the case, and there are other things interfering with our joy in God. Over the past few weeks, I have been learning a lot about how God restores our joy. Here are a few things I am currently doing that may be helpful for you during your seasons of dryness to have your joy restored in the Lord:
1 - Remember your identity.
One of the enemy’s consistent schemes in the life of a believer is to distort their identity. Since he knows the “big sins” are no longer a temptation to us, he puts lies in our head that kill our joy: “You’re not good enough. Are you even a Christian? You made a wrong choice that has messed up God’s plan for your life. You can’t speak well. You’re a phony. The church will never grow. Is this whole Jesus thing really even real?” The lies run wild in our minds and attack our identity. Far too often, we believe them. If these lies are left unchecked, our joy in God will dwindle.
Ephesians 6 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood… Therefore take up the whole armor of God.”
When these lies from the enemy come, we must put on the belt of truth and remind ourselves of our identity. Ephesians 1 is one of the places I go to combat the enemy’s gnawing at my identity. We must spend time in the Word for the sole purpose of spiritual nourishment (not sermon prep or for anything related to ministry) for these lies to be castrated, and our joy to be restored.
Action steps: Carve out time on your calendar to be alone with Jesus in the next 24 hours. Write down the lies the enemy has been telling you. Then, write down the Truth in the Bible that combats each of these lies. Do this regularly.
2 - Get a breath of fresh air.
The human tendency is to turn everything we do into a math equation—including our personal walk with Jesus and our ministry. Because I am very type A, I must be reminded regularly that God is NOT a math equation. When we turn God, church growth, or anything in ministry into a math equation, our joy will be zapped. We are meant to be led by the Holy Spirit.
I am a big proponent of gleaning wisdom from lots of places (books, podcasts, secular leaders, etc.) because it’s crying aloud in the streets. But, I think often times we focus so much on the next church growth or leadership technique that it takes away our reliance on God. When we are focused more on what the world says about growing our ministry rather than what God is teaching us personally, our awe and amazement of God suffers—and so goes our joy.
The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, the Power we need for ministry, and the Breath of fresh air that we need for an overflowing life. Our joy is not found in the next leadership strategy or a growing organization—it’s found in God the Holy Spirit being in us and flowing through us. When we feel tired, lifeless, and like we are just spinning our wheels in ministry, let’s get alone with God and let His Breath fill our sails again.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
Action steps: Do whatever it takes to shake your crusty heart with a Breath of Fresh Air. Let Him set your heart on fire. (This looks different for me depending on what season I’m in. Changing my environment and my pace seems to help with this). Church of the Highlands is currently in a great series on this right now.
3 - Fight to be on the front lines.
When we started in ministry, we were obsessed with loving people and doing personal ministry. I have observed (and experienced) that after a while that exuberant desire to be on the front lines turns to ministry being a burden and a desire to spend more time in meetings and around other believers. When we are digesting spiritual truth without overflowing it into other people’s lives, our joy will dwindle.
One of my mentors describes it like the difference between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee has water flowing in and water flowing out— therefore many plants and animals are living there. The Dead Sea however has much water flowing in, but no water flowing out. As you may expect, nothing is able to live there— it is in fact dead. This is how our spiritual lives are. Without an avenue to flow out, all of our studying is in vain, and our joy will dry up. “Faith without works is dead."
Let’s fight to not only fill ourselves with beautiful truths, but also to overflow into genuinely loving people (not just from the stage, but in every avenue of our lives).
Action steps: Get out of your comfort zone in the next 24 hours by doing something for someone that no one will ever know about. Have lunch with a homeless man or have lunch with a lost friend without tweeting about it. Make this a consistent source of joy in your life.
We all go through seasons where our joy feels like it’s dwindling, but we must continue to fight to “With joy draw water from the wells of our salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). Because of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we have been reconciled to God forever. He is the only One who can give us the real joy we long for. We get a taste of Him now, and will know Him fully in eternity. A few ways we can fight for this joy are to remember our identity in Christ, get a breath of fresh air from the Holy Spirit, and fight to love people on the front lines. And let’s remember the words of Jesus, “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22b).