Are you struggling lately with an overwhelming sense of being overwhelmed? Ya know, that weird state of “this isn’t right.” Frustrated cause “that person needs to get it together” and worn out cause “my schedule is relentless and task list endless” and “I need to get it together!” Any of that sound familiar? I mean, if not, I could keep going…
Lately there’s been many around me that have battled a mindset of discontentment. However, in my perception, it’s not necessarily a circumstantial discontentment that could be alleviated with a given change or new reality. Maybe in their minds it is (and there’s no doubt circumstances affect it), but there’s a real sense of, well, plain joylessness.
Through a few convos lately and some good old fashion ponder and prayer, I think I’m on to something though. Let me tell you, it doesn’t need to be this way. The answer is easier than you’d think…
Not The Typical Joy Hunt
Now, before I declare my hypothesis, I’d like to just make clear that this isn’t the typical spill. If you’ve spent any time rubbing shoulders with the evangelical minded type, than you know the popular catch phrase gospel presentation of, “We’ve all got a void we’re trying to fill…”
While that’s not necessarily a bad presentation or even too faulty of an explanation, it’s not entirely what I’m talking about here. See, the real problem is that even those who claim to know God and have joy… kinda just don’t seem to sometimes.
I’d propose the problem is not solely an ongoing hunt for joy (yea sorta), but as C.S. Lewis or Jonathan Edwards might put it, “the fact of being far too easily pleased.”
The Real Issue: Creating A False Heaven
I have a couple of phrases I continually repeat to the guys I invest in, and I’m thoroughly convinced of their truth. One would be this:
“Placing expectations on people is the surest way to have disappointments.”
Another would be this:
All of our life on this side of eternity is one of fighting against chaos. Don’t expect it to be different, and you won’t be so frustrated or discouraged. Embrace the battle and, as patiently and gracefully as possible, just join the continual fight.
See, when we continually imagine a reality that can not and will not exist on this side of eternity, then we essentially and functionally create for ourselves what I call a “false heaven.”
The only outcome of that is that we place our hope in a heaven that will never exist and lose site (and grip) of the truth. It’s quite subtle in function, but absolutely overwhelming in its effects after a while.
I mean, if we’re “heavenizing” something, we’re “hellinizing” and demonizing other circumstances and people. Ya get it? This happens often and we truly need to take some time to be “sober in self assessment” (Rom 12:3, 1 Peter 4:7-8), find these in our thinking, and guard against it. We’ll all enJOY each other, and life, a bit more.
Let’s Get Real Practical About “Chilling”
I realize the above statements are worth a sermon, or book, or two. This barely scratches the surface, but I believe it’s the scratch that would break our glass ceiling of joylessness. For now though, I just wanted to toss out some real practical advice to help you chill and guard against winding up in this state – besides checking yourself and changing your thinking like stated.
So here’s my top three ways to keep your thinking changed, and stay chill (not guaranteed to work for you, but worth a try):
- WRITE IT OUT! – I know, “you’re not a journaler.” I’m not saying write a book or try to impress anyone. Maybe it’s journaling or blogging, but maybe it’s just making lists! Seriously. I’m a huge believer in task lists and wish lists. If you write it down you get it out of your head and the noise can clear. Maybe it’s stuff “you’d like to say to that person!” or simply your to-do lists! Get an agenda, get a calendar, get Evernote (love it!), get a whiteboard (love em!), get a moleskin or simple notepad, just get a system that works and is consistent! Clearing the fog and writing out actionable tasks and workflows takes away the stress and worry of remembering and allows your mind to relax! Then, you’ll be more likely to do, and enjoy, the next advice!
- REST AND READ! – Rest. No really take a chill pill and relax. Make yourself some stress tea if you gotta, and force yourself to sit down and woosaw. Then don’t just “veg out” and waste your existence. For reals. Read something. I’m talking something that expands your worldview and stimulates your thoughts – it seems counterproductive, but just try it. I hear people say often, “I’m just not a reader” which is code for “I’m just not a learner” or “I like other people doing the thinking for me.” No offense, but movies don’t cut it. This refusal seriously limits your worldview and practice of thinking well. Reading is good to take you outside of your present reality and current narrow focuses. While blogs and such may be great, long form reading such as a book is therapeutic, beneficial, and relaxing in so many more ways. I’d recommend the Bible, and/or another nonfiction author. Why nonfiction? Well fictional stories can be good, and maybe you love them, but in my opinion it’s a lot like drinking away your sorrows. When you sober up, your reality is still the same, if not actually appearing worse. It’s important to deal with real life. You’ll find yourself thinking of ways to communicate ideas better, help yourself, help others, and just think well in general. This, as I say, helps you live well and worship well – what we’re made to do.
- In relation to above: FOCUS ON, AND TRACK, THEMES OF SCRIPTURE – Perhaps if you already feel life is super noisy, then in reality, I’ll be the first to admit that reading the Bible can make it feel more noisy sometimes. It shouldn’t with the right mindset of grace, but it can if you just take chunks and favorite passages a piece at at time.However, the truth of those words is still what we’re after. So unless you’re knowledgeable enough to do this by yourself, I’d recommend you grab a friend or two with no agenda, and just delight in tracking some overarching themes of God’s redemptive history! You don’t have to get nerdy and research like crazy, though you might like it, but just converse and look through scripture for stuff. Find some good articles or go talk to a few trustworthy teachers, friends or believers that know a bit more. I recently had a conversation with a young man and brother in Christ, Payte, about “the tabernacle” while sipping some tea. This actually lead us to tracing God’s presence from beginning of time to now and his work he has done to dwell among, and now in, us as his people. It was inspiring, encouraging, and actually quite relaxing in so many ways! Besides, just chilling and chatting with a few friends who care only to enjoy each other’s company and the goodness of God in the moment is a true treasure. Be that person!
Hopefully this advice and thinking, as well as these methods, will help you as you seek to not just experience occasionally, but truly LIVE IN a true state of rest and joy. You need it, and the world needs us to have it.
What other advice would you give? Do you think these could help you out? If you try this, or already do it, I’d love to hear how it helped or what you think!