Faith & Spirituality

J-O-Y Doesn’t Give Me Joy

You’ve surely seen it at some point — the acronym and alleged formula for JOY: Jesus first. Then Others. Last of all, Yourself.

I don’t think it’s that simple.

Here’s the thing: I’m not so sure the “Jesus” category can be easily disentangled from the “Others” category. Serving othersĀ isĀ part and parcel of serving Jesus. Amazingly, He identifies so closely with us, that He counts service done for us by others as service done to Himself (which I think is really nice of Him, by the way, and proves how humble He is): “Since you did it for the one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40) “Whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me.” (Mark 9:37) “The one who receives whomever I send receives me.” (John 13:20)

Some people say that “Jesus first” means having your quiet time or your daily devotions or whatever you like to call it first thing in the morning before you do anything else. I guess that sounds reasonable, although if Scripture reading and prayer is primarily a means of grace from God to us, it would seem that those activities are really more for our benefit than God’s. This would make them likely candidates for the “Yourself” category, as much as for the Jesus category.

Secondly, “yourself last” sounds noble, but honestly, it’s a recipe for burnout. As selfish as it may sound, sometimes you really do have to prioritize self-care. This could be as simple as not saying “yes” to every task, project, and invitation that comes your way. It’s the whole “put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others” idea: If your resources have run dry, you will have very little of value to offer anyone else.

Last but not least — and so obvious that I hate to point it out — this formula doesn’t always bring me joy! Sometimes I do all the “steps” in the right order, but at the end of the day I’m still exhausted and fed up anyway.

In light of all this, I’d like to propose a new formula for JOY:

Java, Oreos, and You!

(It works for me.)

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