Finding Joy in the Lord
I have a distinct memory of standing in my old, cozy kitchen in the small house we lived in for seven years in inner-city Minneapolis. At that time, all of the kids were young, so it was up to me to write out Bible memory verses each week, and I enjoyed decorating them around the edges with simple colored pencil designs. Then I would put them up in the kitchen or the kids’ room, where I could read them and try to work the memorizing into my day whenever I happened to look at them. This wasn’t something that usually led to worship. It was more like brushing my teeth or checking the weather—by habit, to tell the truth.
That day I was leaning back against a counter, looking over at the words I had taped up on a cabinet and repeating them a few times—my highly systematic method for learning Bible verses: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11, NIV).
The Word of God is living and active; it does not return empty.1 As I repeated this verse over and over by routine, I became aware that I was in tears, amazed by the truth in these words. God, in His mercy, had pierced my distracted mind with the presence of His love right there with me in my kitchen with the piles of dishes. Those words went out of my mouth as plain English words, and at the same time—by the power of the Holy Spirit—rose up in my soul as the living Word of God.
Indeed, He filled me with joy.
Peter also proclaims the words of Psalm 16:11 in his sermon as recorded in Acts 2:28. The Old Testament passages that are quoted by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ always make me sit up and pay attention. “You will fill me with joy in your presence” is now a beloved verse, reminding me that it is in our Lord’s presence that there is fullness of joy, even though in my tired flesh and amnesia of spirit I try to pursue joy in other things again, and again, and again.
About that same time, I realized that my prayer life could be anywhere that I am alone with my thoughts, and often enough this is over dishes, with the laundry, while nursing the baby, supervising baths, sitting next to a kindergartener with a workbook, or keeping watch over the playground. I have found that while I was expecting hard sacrifice and surrender in my life at home with my growing number of children, with the meals and the laundry and the homeschool day and the daily mess explosion with its endless cycle of often underappreciated work, that I have found, instead, a joy in His presence right here in the midst of real life.
As I’ve talked with other moms about finding joy in the Lord I’ve developed my own list of things that help with this pursuit of God, always depending utterly upon Him to “fill us with joy in His presence.”
Tips for finding joy in the Lord, right in the midst of daily life . . .
• Abide in Christ. “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.”2 Talk to Him as you go through your day, asking Him to guide your steps and supply all your needs. Confess your fears and less-than-lovely thoughts and struggles. Ask for help. Pray for your husband and children. Trust that the Lord truly is present with you, always.3 Cling to Him on your hardest days. Remember His promises! Look for and treasure the blessings He places all around you, and thank Him as you notice them. Ask Him to lift your spirits and your attitude and give you joy in Him.
• Know His voice. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”4 If you do not know His voice or are feeling distant from Him in general, you can simply begin by asking for help. Ask Him to teach you to pray. Ask Him to make you want to read His Word and see Him and hear Him when you do read it. Ask Him to give you joy in Him. Don’t “try harder”; ask your Father in heaven, who promises to give good gifts (even the Holy Spirit) to those who ask Him.5
• Drink daily from the fountain of His living water. Feed the Word to yourself and to your children. It is not “cheating” to have some of your Bible reading time with your children. Fill your mind with His Word so that your mind will rest there during the day and you can have discernment about your thoughts and ideas.
• Find a time of day when you can read the Bible, a time when your children will expect you to do this. If you are totally overwhelmed and have not been doing this, even five minutes of Bible reading can be helpful. There have been times when my brain and body have been so exhausted that the extent of my prayer life has been, “Oh, help!” Many times I have opened my Bible, expecting nothing in my fuzzy state of mind, only to be met by the Living God. Consider beginning your reading with this Biblical prayer: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law!”6
• Work on memorizing Bible verses so that God’s Word and His truth will be with you wherever you go. Collect encouraging verses and place them where you can see them during the day.
• Examine your heart. This is the heart of the matter. What are you thinking about when you are “alone” with your thoughts—in the shower, in the car, at the kitchen sink, in the laundry room, and during the late-night cleanup? Are they things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praise-worthy?7 When I find myself entering into unprofitable thoughts (which is often!), it is a wake-up call that the Lord has given me an opportunity to be thinking of Him, praying to Him about these very things, asking Him to sort my thoughts and to give me His truth and peace and joy.
• Wean yourself off of habitual boredom fillers—those things we like to do during the day that keep us from necessary work and make us feel that our children are constantly “interrupting” us and keep our inner thought life from dwelling with God.
• Bathe your daily activities in prayer, lifting them up to God. Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.8 Yes, that includes cooking and bedtime routines and dishes and prayers with little wigglers and the endless cycle of cleaning and diapers and late-night discussions with teens and laundry . . . and homeschool too.
I thank you, Lord, that it is You who fills us with joy in Your Presence. For surely, we would not have Your joy any other way.