Several months ago, I shared about my struggles with obligation as a good Christian girl. I wrote, “Obligation killed my joy.” In the same post, I shared that God had promised to take me deeper into the JOY of serving.
He has. Here is some of my journey and what I’ve learned.
I loved the movie Wonder Woman. For many reasons. But one moment I particularly connected with was her moment of disillusionment. Near the end of the movie, Wonder Woman suddenly realizes that the people she has been working so hard to save aren’t perfect and maybe aren’t even good. She suddenly questions whether these people are worthy of her efforts. This superwoman has discovered her power, grown in confidence, and learned about her enemy, but this doubt undercuts everything. Is it worth it?
It’s one thing to realize how powerful you are, that you have the power to defeat darkness. There is nothing like that epiphany of the Holy Spirit’s power in you. But there is always a cost to doing battle, even if you have superpowers.
Sometimes when the battle––or a life of serving––is no longer exciting or challenging to me, I have asked if it was worth it. I have poured myself out and asked if the cost was too high. The level of appreciation I received didn’t seem to match the amount I had given. I felt heavy. I felt weary. And I wasn’t sure how much more I had to give.
Was God really requiring this of me?There is always a cost to doing battle, even if you have superpowers. Click To Tweet
Yet at times, I would taste an immense joy and satisfaction in giving of myself. While up on stage leading a congregation in praise, quietly comforting someone in need, or interceding in the secret of my bedroom, I would be overcome by an indescribable feeling––being fully alive.
I would feel the pleasure of the Father over me. I would see the beauty and power of what I was doing. And despite the energy, time, or dignity it cost me, I gave freely of myself, knowing this was what God created me for––to serve, to give, to bring breakthrough to others, to manifest Him. There is nothing comparable to the high I felt in certain moments of clarity.
But then the tiredness hit. The moments when I just didn’t have any more to give. The moments I questioned whether giving freely of myself was a sustainable lifestyle.
I wanted it to be sustainable, but it didn’t feel that way.
Well, one thing I know is that God doesn’t command us to do things we are incapable of. When He gives commands, He provides what we need to obey. He doesn’t call us to a lifestyle that isn’t sustainable.
So, recently I’ve been searching out wisdom in how to give and serve out of joy longterm. Here are four keys I have found so far:
More and more, I’m learning the importance of boundaries. Healthy boundaries allow me to give of myself without resentment. It’s important to know your needs and your limits, and to operate accordingly.
I’m an introvert, so I need alone time. I want to learn to manage my emotions more effectively so I have more energy for people. But when I don’t have that energy, I say no. The fact is, we all have limits.
Putting boundaries around my time, my heart, and my relationships allows me to love more freely, live with more integrity, and serve more sustainably.
2) Time in the Secret Place
Our foundation always needs to be in the secret place. The bigger the tree, the deeper and stronger the roots under the ground. Otherwise, the tree would topple. Similarly, our hidden life should be just as strong, if not stronger, than our seen life. Our hidden root system is our secret time with God.
Whenever I start doing life as a series of activities rather than a journey in a relationship, my heart slowly tires until I eventually reach the point of weariness. A life of activities is not sustainable––that’s not how we were designed to thrive. We were created for relationship and love.
Relationship with God means giving space to God to speak, to lead, to surprise. So often I fall back into “doing” prayer or “doing” worship – my time with God becomes rote. I stop expecting Him to break into the other parts of my day as well. I stop inviting him in.
Prioritizing relationship with God––continually giving Him space to speak, lead, and surprise––is crucial to serving with joy. Serving with Him, for Him, and from Him is vastly different than fulfilling a duty. It’s like night and day.
And when you are connected to Him, He will lead you as to how you should serve. Sometimes we take on burdens He has not given. Learn to lift your burdens to Him and to receive the portion He has for you. (Hint: That portion involves REST and JOY.)
3) Choosing Joy
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Boundaries can protect your joy. Time in the secret place builds connection with the source of your joy. But joy can also simply be chosen.
You choose thankfulness. You choose hope. You choose to remember the God who is above your circumstances.
God is a person of joy. When He created the world, He delighted in it. When He created you, He delighted in you. When you do any small little thing well or with a pure heart or with the intention of pleasing Him, He is overjoyed. He isn’t hard to please.
The enemy likes to convince us to wallow in our mistakes, regrets, and fears. But God invites us to turn from our sins, release to Him our failures, and receive from Him a much better portion: His delight, His love, and His joy.
“He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Sometimes all we need to do is turn to Him and receive. He wants to fill us.
4) Flowing From Love
And last but not least, we cannot forget love.
Recently I was sharing my journey of disillusionment with someone who confronted me with a simple observation. “You’re forgetting about love,” they said.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)
“You’ve counted the cost,” they continued. “Some people don’t, but you have. Now the only question is whether you’re willing to pay it out of love, just as Jesus faced that choice in the Garden of Gethsemane.”
I teared up as he said that. Because while I do believe that life is supposed to be easier than I sometimes make it for myself, I was confronted with the fact that life won’t always be easy. There will be a cost. Comfort is not the goal. The goal is being like Jesus. And Jesus gave it all in love.
He had boundaries. He hid himself away on mountaintops when he needed to. He certainly guarded his secret time with the Father. But he also counted the cost and then made the sacrifice the Father set before him. For the JOY that awaited beyond that sacrifice, he said yes to pouring himself out.
Calling & Purpose
Sometimes I get wrapped up trying to figure out the puzzle of who I am and how I was designed to live. I want to know my calling and purpose in life. I want to fulfill it. Other times, I am afraid to face the lifestyle God may be calling me to, because I am afraid God will require too much of me.
But as I face some of the things God is calling me to step into, things that will cost (though also probably make me feel alive), He reminds me,
“It’s all about love. I am calling you to these things because I love my people, because I love my Name, and because I love you. Are you willing to choose love? Are you willing to deem the people I died for as worthy of your love?”
As He asks, I already know I’m going to say yes to Him. Whatever the cost.
He came for me. He rescued me. He continually pours out His grace to me. He has promised an unending joy I’ve only tasted in spurts. He has promised me a crown of glory. He knows and understands me better than I ever could. So I say yes to Him. I say yes to being like Him. I say yes to love.