Burnout, stress, weariness, mental and emotional breakdown – it is all around us. What has happened to our smiles? How do we get them back?
As a teacher I see so many stressed-out, frowning parents who are layering their stress and burn-out onto their children. I see teachers too who are trying too hard to juggle weariness or burnout and failing. God did not create us for ‘vasbytes’ and ‘frown until you drown’ moments. He created us for JOY – His JOY not the world’s ‘fake happiness’ which is fleeting.
In fact JOY is a command in the bible …. Rejoice Always… (1Thessalonians 5:16).
It feels like we are on a treadmill and if we slow down it feels like we may get flung off. It does not work to just say “You need to slow down”. There is a certain amount of ‘head-down running’ that we have to do. Slowing down does not always result in adding more JOY in our lives anyway.
So how do we “make time for our smiles”? How do we make it matter in our lives?
God wants us to interrupt our ‘head-down running’ as often as possible in these seven ways:
God has to keep reminding us! Time for HIM each day is ESSENTIAL for your JOY. It is like eating the right food – it does not always taste good but it is nourishing your body. Prayer and scripture nourish your joy even when you can’t feel it.
Jesus says, “I have told you this so that MY JOY may be in you and that YOUR JOY may be complete” (John 15:11 NIV). Jesus tells us to remain in God’s love and follow his commands to protect our joy.
Be present and intentional about loving. It is not always easy when you have a hundred things on your mind and loved ones being demanding. But sometimes we need to force ourselves to watch mindfully, ask questions or send an encouraging voice note. Hold hands, hug, cherish their smile and share yours.
“When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them” (Job 29:24 NIV). Make time for the light in your face – it is precious to your beloved.
Make time to fill your tank. This does not just mean time to relax, but rather time to express your own creativity. Too often we think time for ourselves means ‘time out’ (which is of course important). But don’t neglect ‘time in’ finding your God-given creativity inside. It connects you with the joy of the creator God.
“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him” (Colossians 3:10). So scrapbook, garden, run, dance, play, crochet, draw, paint, write etc… – creativity restores.
Don’t just DO IT – live it and purpose it. Make what you do to support your family something you do with joy. Even when it does not feel joyful (trust me teaching eight year olds does not always feel joyful!). Offer it as a sacrifice. Draw on God’s strength by asking for wisdom with specific areas. But set boundaries with it too, so that it does not steal from the other areas of ‘making time for your smile!’
“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart…” (Deuteronomy 15:10 NIV).
We have heard this one time and time again. Being thankful builds your joy and destroys self-pity. Self-pity is the enemy of our smile. Do whatever it takes to practise gratitude. Be specific about rooting out self-pity through serving others less fortunate and “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Jeremiah 30:12 (MSG) asks “So why all this self-pity, licking your wounds?” Be grateful, it prevents you from dwelling on your misery. It protects your smile.
So often, I confess I don’t feel like worshiping (and my husband is a worship leader!). I am too tired, too busy, too ‘peopled out’ to go and worship in God’s house. But making time to go and immerse oneself in praise, even if you are singing the lyrics with faith-clenched hands, releases God’s joy in you. The sacrifice of praise realigns our joy.
“… Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
In our fast paced lives we often have to be strong all the time for ourselves and others. But there also needs to be time to let go and truly feel. So make time to laugh, cry, and rage when it is appropriate. God made us to feel deeply, not just bottle up until we explode. Find that person or place to off-load and then ask God to refill you with His Joy.
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:13). Release your heartache to restore your smile!
God wants us to be ruthless about all these areas. We have to interrupt the busyness of life to make time for them.
If you are struggling, write them down in a prayer journal and record what you do for each area each week! Diarise them, hold each other accountable for them and make time for your smile. It REALLY matters to you, for your loved ones and to God. So keep running, as long as your smile keeps up, you will be fine.