In the midst of one of the greatest works for God in the Old Testament, Nehemiah reminded God’s people, “…the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Why the reminder? Because God’s people need joy, and one of Satan’s first line of attacks to weaken our hands in the work is to take our joy.
Psalm 16:11 reminds us where joy is found: “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” I can testify that there is joy in the presence of God! He has often used His Word, time with Him in prayer, and biblical preaching to nourish and encourage my heart.
I can also testify that there are influences that threaten to rob our joy along the way. (In a recent post, I wrote about the joy killers we can avoid. The ones listed below, however, aren’t always foreseeable or avoidable.) Here are some common joy killers for those who serve in ministry:
1. Unplanned obstacles
Trials, burdens, and heartaches can catch us off guard and bring discouragement. We must cast our cares on the Lord.
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.—1 Peter 5:7
2. Broken relationships
If you love people, it is difficult when a relationship ruptures. We are commanded to live peaceably if it be possible, but sometimes it is not possible.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.— Romans 12:18
3. Petty issues
It’s disheartening to see people make issues or separate from good people (even amongst fellow pastors) over trivial issues which have nothing to do with Bible doctrine or holy practices. It’s grievous to see good people refuse to strive together for Christ’s gospel.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;—Philippians 1:27
Church leaders often receive messages and emails from people who are hateful toward us because of our Bible teaching about the family, origins of life, or personal holiness. Paul faced this all throughout his ministry from the unbelieving Jews.
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.—1 Timothy 4:10
Each of us have a different set of joy killers. You might even take a moment now to jot down four or five things that tend to kill your joy so you’re prepared next time they strike.
One at a time, these joy killers are frustrating. But when they attack in pairs or groups (as they often do), they can seem overwhelming.
Thankfully, however, God also gives each of us joy givers to replenish our joy in Him. When I jot down my joy givers, these are my top five:
1. The Word of God
When I sense my joy slipping or needing renewal, I carve out extra time to personally study God’s Word—not for sermon preparation, but for me to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.—Jeremiah 15:16
2. The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, and He uses God’s Word to assure us of God’s presence. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives renews our joy.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;—John 14:16
3. The local church
The local church is one of God’s most precious gifts—especially when you need joy. There is nothing that will realign your perspective like corporate praise with God’s people and biblical preaching from God’s Word.
Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.—Psalm 111:1
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.—2 Corinthians 1:24
4. Godly friends
Every Christian needs godly friends with whom they can be transparent—friends who help your joy by reminding you of God’s promises and His truth.
Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;—2 Corinthians 7:6
The smile of one of our grandkids can instantly melt the heartache caused by a joy killer. (You can see this in the picture above…and I’ll be happy to show you more pictures anytime you ask!)
As a rule, I don’t unburden on my wife. (Why would I want to pass on the ministry of the joy killers to her?) But Terrie is a joy giver, for sure! Spending time with her encourages my joy. Her godly perspective is often a great encouragement to me.
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.—Proverbs 5:18
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.—Psalm 127:3
What strengthens your joy? Make a list of five to ten activities that infuse joy in your life. Next time your joy is sucked out by joy killers, pull out your list, and practice it!
I have found that those who would try to rob my joy have often already sucked the joy from their own family or church. Many times they move from circle to circle or church to church with their joy-killing mentality. I praise God for the haven I have with my wife, children, and grandchildren—and a loving, supportive local church determined to follow Christ.
I am thankful that at the end of the day—sometimes occupied by necessary time with joy killers whose family and friend relationships rupture regularly—that I can retreat to the love of my God and my family.
Everyone has joy killers in their lives, but we all have joy givers too. The challenge for us is to identify the joy killers so we remember to replenish with the joy givers.
Of course, a side challenge is to be a joy giver, not a joy killer.