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Joy in service
You know that serving God is often fraught with headaches, frustration, and a lack of joy. But there is a secret to finding joy in the midst of trials.
About eight years ago I began volunteering in the Mars Hill Kids program. Today, my oldest of four kids is eight (the others are now six, six, and four). Connect the dots and you’ll know I’ve had my share of sleepless nights, sickness, and exhaustion over the years I’ve served. Oh yes, and in the mix I was trying to get a small business off the ground with my father-in-law
You’ve probably had some ups and downs along the way too. You know that serving God is often fraught with headaches, frustration, and a noticeable omission of the “Shiny Happy People” theme song to accompany the time. Service can sometimes be downright joyless.
What do you do when you hit this point? Too often when I’ve come to this point, I have just wallowed in it. I’ve just sat in the muck and been annoyed with life and the serving role I’m “stuck” in.
Surely you’ve never been so immature. Instead you have opted for my other, far nobler response: “It shouldn’t be like this!” I get fired up. I do something about it, and work to make the service trial-free. Sometimes it works—for a while. Sure, some things were solved. But like one of those weird, inflatable punch clowns my friend had growing up, you bop it, it falls back, then pops right back up to stare at you.
Silence from God
When my inactivity and my activity prove equally vain, I eventually break. I get on my knees and pray. This is not the serene, early-morning-with-a-cup-of-coffee kind of prayer. No, it starts in frustration. It starts in self-pity: “I’m a grown man, and yet somehow ministering to a bunch of 30-pound munchkins has me crushed. I’m tired of this.”
Service can sometimes be downright joyless. What do you do when you hit this point?
When I get this point, God gives me silence. You know that kind of silence a good dad gives in response to a complaining child? It’s that kind. Then he reminds me of his Word: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Eventually I confess that he’s right. This is a tender moment between Father and adopted son. But it is also a bit comedic: “Yes, son, I am right. I kind of always am.”
Joy amidst the trials
The point I come to in my moments of clarity is one that I hope you and I both come to faster and more often. Trials are not an anomaly. Trials are not the things to get past so that you can get to joy. Here’s the big idea: There is pure joy amidst the trials.
When my eyes are closed I just see my trials. But when my eyes are opened in this way I see God and others. And that’s where the joy in service is.
Find the joy
Not long ago a couple my wife and I befriended a married couple with kids the same age as ours. Play dates, friendships, and likes were formed. The wife became a Christian. But at the same time their marriage began spiraling down, ultimately ending in divorce. She felt wrecked, alone and confused. She had some very real needs, and they were met wonderfully: She had time to grieve, supportive Christian community, Christian counseling, regular church attendance, Redemption Group, and more.
Trials are not an anomaly. Trials are not the things to get past so that you can get to joy.
What was a major component that enabled each one of blessings? Kids ministry volunteers. Few of them had any idea what a blessing they were being to her and her kids. Those of us who did know experienced both the trial and the joy as we served.
Are you in a time of frustration in your service? Go before the Lord and allow for the calming silence to come. Then ask him to open your eyes to his work in others. He is orchestrating hundreds of stories through you—using your service in far greater ways than you can know. May you serve him joyfully amidst the trials.