322 – Returning to Joy

This Week on Soul Talks

As Christ followers, how can we find true joy that mingles with the sorrow, stress, and other negative emotions that we experience in our lives? We know that the Risen Lord was a man of great joy! And just like Jesus, we can learn how to care for all of our emotions and ultimately return to joy. 

Tune into this episode of Soul Talks, where Bill and Kristi unpack how you can absorb the joy of Jesus (hint: it’s not by trying harder or denying your emotions!). Be encouraged with tangible practices and disciplines for genuinely processing your struggles and training to experience the fruit of the spirit of joy!

Resources for this episode: 

Returning to Joy Transcript

Bill & Kristi Gaultiere

Bill 

Hello friends, welcome to Soul Talks with Bill and Kristi Gaultiere. 

We wish you could have been with us in Sugar Hill, Georgia, this past weekend.

We were at Church on the Hill with our friends Jeff and Gay Coleman, shout out to the two of you. 

Thanks so much for being in our Soul Shepherding community and for having us at your church. 

It’s so fun to train your leaders — all your small group leaders — in Journey of the Soul, and to share with your people and your church services the beginning of the sermon series on Journey of the Soul. 

Just great, great people there in Sugar Hill, Georgia. 

 We felt so welcomed and it was a fun time. Wasn’t it, Kristi?

Kristi 

It was. We are really grateful for the opportunity to once again see God’s people and the church at work, the Bride of Christ. 

So beautiful and so glorious.

And such an honor to get to be a part of that. 

After the service yesterday, Bill, a woman came up and said, “Thank you. Thank you for your message. You really ministered to me this morning.” 

And then she said, “Especially your joy.” 

And it kind of caught me off guard. 

I shared with you last night when we got home and we were kind of processing our peaks of the weekend. 

That was a peak. 

I shared with you that as I’d reflected on it some more, I think that what struck me was that I realized that, “Well, I wasn’t trying to minister joy.” 

I didn’t even think to ask God that I would be a “minister of joy” or that I would be joyful, or that I would be an ambassador of his joy or any of that. 

I wasn’t conscious of trying to be joyful.

And so I was praising Him and I was thinking, “Well, Lord, that’s the fruit of your Spirit in me. You have given me a lot to be joyful in.” 

I am so joyful in the opportunity of sharing the message he’s given me, sharing his Kingdom, and being with his people and in his church. 

So it just came naturally, but it was so natural that I was unconscious of it.

Training for Joy

Bill 

It was flowing out of you, in part, because of your training in the ways of grace and in spiritual formation in Christ. 

So the joy of Jesus was in you and flowing out of you. 

And I guess me too, and that was the first thing I thought about when you shared this with me. 

I remember back when I was nicknamed “Eeyore.”

Everybody on my staff in those days — as in the church where I was serving as Spiritual Formation Pastor — everybody on our staff had a “Winnie the Pooh” character name and I was named Eeyore.

“Grumpy,” “Sees the problems,” but “Witty…” I didn’t really like being Eeyore. 

So I guess I got to be “Tigger” this weekend in church. 

Kristi Gaultiere 

Yeah, well, you’ve got a lot of Tigger in you, Bill. 

More than Eeyore, I think. 

I think a lot of people think of  Eeyore as being affectionate, too. 

Being cuddly and safe. 

I think that there’s some positive things there in Eeyore, too.

Bill 

I did a whole training program — this is something that we teach in our Soul Shepherding Institute, we call it a V.I.M. plan. 

V.I.M. stands for: vision, intention, means. 

It’s a training program for being with Jesus to become more like him. 

We coach you in picking a specific area in your life where God is leading you to change. 

One of the V.I.M. plans with a rhythm of life that I did was around being a more thankful and joyful person. 

Staying with that program for weeks, months – even years — made a big difference for me. 

There is more of the joy of the Lord. And so this podcast we’re talking about returning to joy.

Kristi 

Wait, wait, I wanna go back to that though. 

It did make a big difference, the training you did, but the training that you did wasn’t just that you tried to be joyful, so you’ve been more joyful. 

That is not what this was. 

You arranged your rhythm of life and your spiritual disciplines around some things that enabled you to receive more joy from the Lord. 

By focusing your mind on specific Scriptures, by practicing intentions and disciplines, such as singing songs in the shower every morning, memorizing Scriptures that focus on joy. 

You pointed your spiritual disciplines in training and it resulted in the fruit of more joy in your life. 

It’s not like you just tried harder to have joy.

Bill 

Right, like we teach in our Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke book: “Don’t just try. Train.” 

That’s what I was doing. I wasn’t just trying, I was training. 

Another example of the training was reading the Gospels, watching, listening to the Gospels and just appreciating the joy of Jesus. 

We have this idea of,  “Jesus, the man of sorrows,” and many art portraits of Jesus have shown this. 

And he is a man of sorrows — Isaiah 53 other places in scripture, Jesus weeps. 

He grieves, he goes through suffering. 

In his passion, he’s suffering.

But, he’s also a man of joy. 

There are a lot of places in Scripture where we see Jesus’ humor. 

We see his smile, we see his warmth and his playfulness with the children and in other situations Jesus is very much a man of joy.

And so in my Bible, I marked with a smiley face every place where Jesus was joyful or funny.

Or telling a joke, being happy or playful, or doing something unusual, like having Peter catch a fish and find a coin in the fish’s mouth. 

So many things like this. 

Surprises that he, in his parables, he has surprises in him that sometimes make us laugh or get our attention in a fun way. 

So yeah, absorbing the joy of Jesus is something that doesn’t happen just by trying. 

It happens by training. 

But part of this training is the idea that we return to joy. 

That’s what we’ve titled this podcast as we’re broadcasting this during Holy Week. 

This is a week where we’re especially mindful in celebrating the cross of Jesus with Palm Sunday, and then into Good Friday and Easter.

We’re tracking with Jesus.

Jesus Experienced Other Emotions Apart from Joy

Bill 

And many of us have been doing that during the season of Lent. 

But even if you’re listening to this podcast at a different time of year, the cross of Jesus is the center point of Christianity. 

It is the gateway into the Kingdom of God and the life that flows to us from the heavens. 

This life of Jesus and his cross, it can seem like it’s all suffering, sorrow, abuse, and injustice, if we don’t see that even through all that is the love, joy, and peace of Jesus. 

And so we read that, “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross” in Hebrews 12 (Heb. 12:2).

I was meditating on that just this morning on my run, reciting the verses of Hebrews 12, and the opening there. 

So how do we find joy that mingles in with sorrow, stress, frustration, anxiety and other negative emotions that we experience? 

Well, part of it is that we need to learn how to return to joy.

Kristi 

And Jesus did this. 

We see this because we’ve been talking about ways we’ve seen in Scripture that Jesus was joyful and full of joy. 

We also see other emotions that Jesus experienced, emotions like anger, frustration, and even some impatience with the disciples. 

He experienced anxiety, in the garden, and grief. 

He experienced stress. 

He experienced negative emotions too. 

But he returned to joy. 

You were mentioning, Bill, as you and I were talking this morning, that we had a joyful weekend. 

And that joy overflowed and even sustained us through some non-joyful experiences. 

Traveling home and the difficulties that come with traveling, especially from east coast to west coast.

And from the busiest airport in America or in the world, Atlanta, to one of the busiest, LAX and all the different shuttles, trains, and flights. 

I know we went on so many different forms of transportation for, you know, hours. 

It took a whole day, but the joy remained with us. 

Then this morning, Satan came and tried to steal it all. 

We were tempted with a lot of stress and a lot of frustration. 

A lot of desolation and grief, again.

You know, grieving the loss of Ted, our beloved brother-in-law. 

Lots of negative emotions kind of hit us.

Bill 

I was snippy with you, which I’m sorry for and apologize again for that. 

Yeah. It was just different situations, we have to catch up on work and…

Kristi 

Yeah, well, I was reactive when you were snippy because we were both under a lot of stress and temptation. 

We were processing that this morning. 

I said, “I need to return to joy.” 

We were talking about that because this is something that we have gotten a vision for, that we can return to joy when we’ve lost it. 

When we’ve lost our ways when we’re facing difficult circumstances and trials and losses. 

I was complaining because my food tastes absolutely horrible to me still from COVID. 

So I’m having trouble getting the nutrition I need, and I realized that I need to return to joy. 

I need to count my blessings. 

I need to be grateful. I can eat, even though it tastes bad. 

Even though there’s a lot of loss, I don’t deny a loss.

I was processing and I was sharing it. 

You were empathizing with me and I was receiving that. 

That’s part of returning to joy too: receiving your empathy and your care. 

That you were holding that grief with me and hearing me, letting me limit it. 

That enabled me to be able to realize, “Well, there’s still a lot here for me to be grateful for.” 

One example is that you would be with me in it and be empathetic.

And contain that grief to let me lament, but also that I can eat, even if I’ve lost the enjoyment of eating.

Be Honest with Emotions Other than Joy

Bill 

Yeah. 

So let’s just make sure that we’re all understanding this. 

When you’re talking about returning to joy, Kristi, you’re not just talking about putting a happy face on. 

Kristi 

No. I’m not talking about denying the grief. 

Bill 

You’re not talking about, “Just be positive,” “Think positive thoughts,” or even, “Start being grateful,” “Count all your blessings.” 

The first thing that you’re doing is you’re actually lamenting, you’re grieving. 

You’re being sad. 

Seven months of not having a good taste, what food you do taste, a lot of times, tastes like poop, and it’s just awful. 

You are forcing yourself to eat. 

There’s no good flavor in your food. 

So you’re sad about this, you’re frustrated about this, and you feel impatient about it. 

So you’re confessing these emotions to me as part of your process. 

And that mourning process doesn’t sound like “returning to joy.” Right? 

A lot of us, if we think about keeping a positive attitude and being joyful, we don’t think “Well, be genuine and consistent with that grief.” 

To really be in the reality of the Fruit of the Spirit of joy, we need to be honest about other emotions and experiences that are not joyful, that we’re struggling with.

Kristi 

Yes. We did that over some other frustrations we were having with some administrative things with our ministry and disappointments.

We were feeling that things weren’t going the way that we’d hoped. 

We were disappointed in some people that we’d hoped would, you know, be able to help us with it and we were processing and grieving that too. 

And even doing a little bit of problem solving, although mostly just staying in some of the processing of the lament, the disappointment. 

But still finding strength in our lament and then praying together to be able to return to joy, with hope to persevere.

To keep on with the good work of the ministry, even though it’s hard. 

And we run into these problems, these disappointments, these frustrations.

Bill 

So one of the things that’s confusing about returning to joy is understanding joy. 

Because I think that we tend to think of joy as an emotion. 

Maybe a deep emotion. 

Maybe a spiritual emotion. 

We might contrast it with happiness and say happiness is circumstantial but joy is really deep. 

And there’s something true about that. 

There is something sustainable, life-giving, and Godly about joy. 

It’s a Fruit of the Spirit.

And yet there is a caveat to that “Well, joy has some happiness in it too.”

But there’s an important point here that joy is not only an emotion. 

It’s an attitude. 

It’s like a bodily disposition. 

It has to do with how we’re relating to God, to other people. 

So there’s this social, relational bonding aspect of joy. 

Then there are habits that we can cultivate around how we think and where we put our minds and feelings, and the training that we do.

Feeling Emotions Other than Joy Does Not Remove Us from the Kingdom of Heaven

Bill 

For example, we were just talking about where we can actually train to be more thankful, joyful, and practice emotional health.

Where we would be emotionally honest about all of our experiences, and that we would seek empathy from the Lord and from safe people. 

All this stuff is mixed in with the experience of joy. 

So when we read that, “For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross,” (Heb. 12:2) there’s something very deep and complex going on here.

That even in the midst of worst physical and spiritual suffering that any human being has ever gone through, there is this wellspring of joy for Jesus. 

Not that he’s continuously feeling gobs of happiness.

That would not be true, of course. 

But we can have more than one feeling accessible to us or we can move between emotional states, where they’re affecting us.

And so even as Jesus was suffering, he was in the presence of his Abba, his Father, and he was sustained by the Holy Spirit. 

There were angels ministering to him. 

He was benefiting from years and decades of training in his love for God and his love for people.

He was benefiting from his ability to have peace in trials and his ability to bless the one that curses him.

And do that happily, even easily and routinely because he is finding refuge in the love and the loving presence of his Father. 

So joy is accessible to Jesus, sustaining him through his cross journey and the anguish and all the pain that he is going through.

Kristi 

Yeah. And I’m so thankful for that. 

You have helped me to understand, access, and connect with Jesus in these ways more through the Unforsaken book.

And just spending time at those Stations of the Cross, those prayers, and interaction with Jesus’ journey. 

But then also you mentioned, as we were talking earlier, about how Jesus returned to joy.

And how we see that in the Matthew 11 passage, where he’s pronouncing woes upon Sidon and Tyre and then it says, abruptly, Jesus broke into prayer.

“Thank you father, Lord of Heaven and Earth”  (Matt. 11:20-25).

And we see him return to joy out of this prayer. 

Then in his ministry, when he was pronouncing the woes, I don’t think he was doing that in joy. 

I think he was feeling some other emotions there, and I don’t think he just repressed them, but he did what he tells us to do.

He turned back into the Kingdom and to the bonding with his Father. 

He lifted his face to his Father’s face.

“Thank you, Father.” 

This is a father-son operation coming out of father-son intimacies. 

He’s communicating there about the intimacy, the connection, the bond.

But saying, “I’m not keeping it to myself. I’m willing to go over it line by line with you if you’re willing to listen.”

So, you know, this is The Message translation that you use and The Easy Yoke book that I’m talking about. 

It’s so helpful because he’s showing us how to do it.

Bill 

Yeah. And so you’re speaking about Jesus’ focus and his emphasis there in Matthew 11, and how he, of course, never leaves the Kingdom of God. 

So when he’s frustrated, when he’s angry, he’s still in the Kingdom of God. 

But he shifts his focus to be in a more gentle and joyful dimension of the Kingdom of God. 

We probably also would say, “Well, it’s not that when he’s frustrated and pronouncing the woes, that he is un-joyful or contrary to joy.” 

That’s not the dominant attitude and emotion at that time. 

In that sense, he’s returning to joy and that’s where we want to be. 

We always have accessible to us the Holy Spirit, the spirit of joy that lives in our bodies. 

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

There is always this fountain of joy that we can attend to and be nourished by. 

Jesus Felt Many Emotions But Always Returned to Joy

Bill 

So Jesus pivots in his emphasis and his focus to move from the agitated pronouncements of judgment.

That was important. 

It was truth. 

And the people needed that and they needed to hear that. 

Then he focuses his attention on the people that are right in front of him. 

He brings so much joy, grace, peace, and blessing to those people. 

It’s a great example that Jesus experiences stress. 

He experiences conflict, frustration, people sinning against him, and his ministry not succeeding the way he would’ve wanted it to at that point in time. 

He’s dealing with that and he’s able to return his focus into the joy of the Lord.

Kristi 

It seems like Jesus, for the joy set before him, entered the cross. Remembering the coming joy and the hope enabled him to endure. 

I think that it’s helpful for us too. 

Even as the waves of grief come for us, as we grieve the passing of Ted, as I grieve loss with my taste. 

Even as those grief waves come, I let myself feel the grief. 

I don’t try to stop the grief and deny the negative emotion. 

I let myself feel it. 

But I remember that it’s not all of my reality all the time. 

It helps me to remember that it’s a wave. 

It’s a season.

This isn’t forever. 

That helps me too, but it’s not just a denial and a repressing of the negative and pretending to be happy,

Bill 

Same thing in Philippians 4, Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord. Always. I’ll say it again rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). 

What he’s saying is “Return to joy, return to joy in the Lord. I’ll say it again, return to joy.” 

That’s what rejoice means.

It means return to joy. 

He goes on to talk about anxiety in Philippians chapter 4, verse 6, which is a very misunderstood verse. He says “Do not be anxious” (Phil. 4:6).

A lot of us stop there as though Paul is saying  “Well, just deny your anxious feelings. And if you’re feeling anxiety, it’s a sin.”

That’s not what he’s saying.

He’s saying, in situations when you’re stressed or struggling or anxious, don’t just stay in that. Talk to God about how you feel and pray about these things.

Elsewhere, the Scripture teaches us, find somebody safe. 

Find a relationship with a trusted person, a love-one-another relationship. 

Be honest about what’s going on and seek support and prayer.

Then he teaches us to be grateful, to see the good that God is doing in the situation. 

That’s another great example of the intermingling in this case of joy and anxiety, that they’re not necessarily contradictory. 

They can flow together.

It’s natural that we would have anxious feelings in situations that are stressful or fearful. 

If we will deal with that in a healthy way, with faith in God, then we don’t get stuck in anxiety. 

We don’t get stuck in a way that ‘s defining us and taking over our personality and inhibiting us from the joy of the Lord and from loving other people.

 

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