By any means of measure, my life was good. I had a family that loved me, a steady job, and a roof over my head. I went to church, read the Bible, and was (mostly) a good guy.
But as I was reading through some of Paul’s epistles, I came to two eye-opening revelations:
- I was way better off in material terms than Paul and many of his followers… yet…
- They had way more joy in their lives than I did.
Where had I missed joy? And what could I do about that?
First, I should clarify what I mean by joy. I don’t mean the fleeting happiness that this world promises us through ad campaigns (e.g., buy the right body spray and you’ll be wildly popular!).
The joy I was looking for was much deeper and much more lasting. It was the stuff Paul was made of that allowed him to be beaten to within an inch of his life and still have joy. This joy could thrive even in the midst of suffering (Romans 5:3-5).
One thing I knew for sure? I didn’t have it.
So what was I supposed to do?
Odd as it sounds, my first step came from some leadership literature I was exposed to. There is a well-worn maxim that states, “What gets measured gets improved.” So I thought, why not try to measure my joy? Maybe it will improve!
So I set out to build a “Joymometer” (no… you won’t find them in stores!). I asked two key questions:
1. What will it measure?
Since joy is a by-product, we have to measure what produces joy. Based on my discoveries above, I decided it would need to track how well connected I was to the source of joy. After a little research, I decided I could attempt to measure how I was doing with God’s means of grace (I use Wesley’s Methodist version). So I started taking notice of:
- My time in Scripture… and not just reading, but contemplating and meditating on it
- My time in Prayer… and not just talking, but taking time to listen
- My time in Service to others… and not just doing tasks, but being there as Christ’s representative
I made an interesting discovery: I was treating these as to-do items (an end), not as to-be items (the means to Christ-likeness and joy).
As time went on, I added things to measure before I realized that when it comes to true joy, there are also things I shouldn’t measure. Hence, my second question:
2. What will it NOT measure?
When the stock market tanked a few years back, I was reminded of the difference between joy and happiness. I had invested some money to help pay my way through seminary, but that money took a severe hit.
I was not happy… but I found I could still have joy.
I also discovered that I had started to measure things in my “Joymometer” that I shouldn’t measure:
- My bank account (or stock holdings)
- My title (seminary student wasn’t that impressive compared to what I had been)
- My car and the status it gave me (I was “driving” a Moped that struggled to make 35 mph).
I decided that figuring out what NOT to measure might be even more important than what I did measure. These “things” are generally external, and they had nothing to do with how connected I was to Christ.
As I examined my list and my life, I realized these things have a way of creeping into your soul and siphoning off joy. So I decided to trust that “things” would be taken care of by the great provider.
And while it wasn’t instantaneous… and there were some struggles (still not that bad), I began to experience joy creeping back into my life. (That, and I decided that the Apostle Paul would have looked awesome on a Moped).
Still Not Convinced to Measure?
Is all this really necessary? In a word… no!
But here’s what I found: measuring joy is a great indicator of something that we can’t easily see… the condition of our soul.
It’s like a farmer who does everything right to produce a crop, but the crop produces way less than it should. After time, perhaps the farmer discovers the core issue is actually the condition of the soil.
An underperforming crop might be a result of a soil condition.
An underperforming life might be the result of a soul condition.
But how will we know… unless we measure?
What’s in your “Joymometer?” What will yours measure? What will it NOT measure? Describe how you’d build one in the comments!