Looking for joy in all the wrong places

Is anyone else stressed out? I’m a wreck most of the time. Tis the season, after all. There’s something about fall that makes people want to socialize. Parties and potlucks and coffee and dinner. And that doesn’t count church activities.

NewSpring, of course, does Judgement House, but really preparations for Judgement House start in July or August. Everything comes to a head in October, though. And then there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the relevant social events in between. This is the time of year I get so busy I can hardly remember my own name half the time. I gave up trying to remember how old I am years go, but my name is usually the next thing to do in the autumn.

And on top of that, work is a madhouse. So between work and church stuff and family stuff and social stuff, by the time the fall is over, I’m usually one step away from a nervous breakdown. And that’s normal. That’s my schedule every fall every year. 

But should it be?

Probably not. So why do I do this to myself? Why do other people do it to themselves? Why do we, as a culture actually, get so busy and stressed out during the time of year where we should be thankful and rejoicing?

Well, for me, I do it because a part of me wants to. I like the craziness of fall to a certain extent. Maybe I’m a masochist. I don’t like the stress, but without the stress it doesn’t feel like fall, if that makes any sense.

But I think I mostly run myself ragged doing the things I do during fall because it makes me happy. It makes me happy to see people and do things for people. It makes me happy to do dramas and put on plays. It makes me happy to be with my friends and my family. But many many times the stress overwhelms the happiness. Those people closest to me know what I’m talking about because when stress and pressure get the best of me, I turn into a bear. I know some of you can’t imagine that, but trust me, I can be truly unpleasant when I’m overwhelmed and too busy.

So what the heck?

I wonder, on some deeper level, if I do this to myself because I’m looking for joy. I wonder if deep down inside I think that stressing myself out to make everyone happy will bring me joy. In my head, I know that’s silly, but I have the heart of a people pleaser. So sometimes I wonder. And then I read a verse like today’s, Psalm 119:143.

143 As pressure and stress bear down on me,
      I find joy in your commands.

Where are we supposed to find joy? According to this verse, joy comes from God’s commands. I’ve blogged before on how God’s commands should bring us joy because they give us opportunities to receive blessings. But it’s one thing to know that God’s commands bring us joy; it’s something else to turn to them as the source of joy.

Another translation says that God’s commands give us delight. Whether you’re finding joy in God’s commands or taking delight in them, neither one is the natural response to scripture most of the time. And that’s probably the point.

Our human natures tell us to look for joy in what makes us feel good, whether that be in some sort of addictive behavior or, in my case, making other people happy. But that doesn’t bring true joy.

So what’s the use of a verse like this, though? What does it mean for my day today? Well … I live a fast-paced, high octane kind of life. I don’t think it’s a big life, but it’s sure not a small one either. There’s a lot going on. I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. And I’m excited about get-togethers with long lost friends. But I need to stop trying to glean joy from them. Because people can be our focus without being our source of joy.

And I need to remember that when the day starts getting to me, when I get overwhelmed with everything that’s happening in my life, I need to turn to God’s commands and remember that He gave them to us so that we could delight in them. Worship. Give. Love. Memorize Scripture. Love our enemies. Forgive our friends. Forgive ourselves. Trust God. Honor. Obey. Submit.

Obey His commands and take joy in them because by obeying you’re giving God the chance to bless you. So don’t stress. And don’t let the pressure get to you. Just focus on God’s commandments.

Your blood pressure and your hair color will thank you. =)