When You Need to Find Joy

by Lee Stewart


I used to assume the control types were all “Type A” managers with bossy demeanors and spreadsheet fetishes. These assumptions came undone when I first became responsible for a very small, very dependent baby. In spite of his small stature and helpless dependence, this person wielded remarkable influence over my time, my space, and my attitude. And I realized I desperately wanted, but desperately lacked any ultimate control.

Sometimes it’s there in the small stuff (stuff they tell us not to sweat), that I get to see what I’m made of. I get to see what a controller I am. In my mind, I know it’s small stuff, but I also know the Bible says the little foxes are the ones who spoil the vines.

Sin crouches at the door. It crouches at the door and it doesn’t care if the door is made of simple stuff or serious stuff. Sin is waiting to devour me. 

Many days things happen all at once. If we could just take each incident one at a time, we’d succeed, right? But it doesn’t happen like that. It’s a downpour.

I remember a situation when I had an infant, and my other two kids were 6 and 3.  There was a “Code Brown” incident, as I unaffectionately call it. All the Cheerios fell on the floor, peanut butter ended up in my hair, and the baby needed his diaper changed. On the way to the changing table, I crushed 32 Cheerios under my feet and tried to ignore the smell of peanut butter. In the middle of the diaper change, the baby pooped some more and before I could stop it, the poop hit the wall and landed proudly on a stack of clean diapers.

In the meantime, I had one child telling me of an injustice done by the other child. I wasn’t in the room to see it for myself because of the Code Brown. So I wasn’t quite sure how the whole thing went down and of course, each sweet little face was sporting innocence. And then the baby started crying again, because it was time for another diaper change. And by the time I had reached the end of that rope, I didn’t even know what kind of person I was. I mean in those moments, I’m not feeling anything that feels like “good mom” or “mom who knows Biblical truth.”

I’m such a sanctified, nice mom when nothing happens to be bothering me! But then the Code Brown sort of incidents happen and I’m like, “Who is THAT mom? Where did my sanctified-self go?! And which mom is the REAL me?”

When life squeezes me, I have trouble counting it all joy. Patience flees the scene. It’s like my theology is being shoved up against me, insisting that I live it out, or toss it out.

These instances remind me of Alexander on his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Motherhood, like life, is fraught with comedy and sorrow and everything in between.

I love these words from C.S. Lewis: “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

The way I respond to things is going to stem from the sort of person I am. The way I view a situation is going to depend on where I am standing. What bubbles over is going to depend on what sort of things are hidden in my heart.

Who I am is going to be shaped by what I fear and what I love.

In those chaotic situations, I have finally found a few ways to help me grab on to the sanctified version of myself, rather than letting the grouchy version take over.

First of all, don’t start analyzing what kind of mother you are during those moments. Instead, diffuse the moment. Lighten up! Laugh. Laugh at the slapstick-comedy-act that is motherhood. Also, sing out loud. Just burst into song! Music is a basic universal language, but it’s also a supernatural thing. And you know what? Sometimes doing something cheerful helps us actually become cheerful. Don’t wait until you FEEL joyful before doing joyful things. Go about it the other way around.

Then there’s prayer. Prayer is something I’m learning to do like breathing. I just confess to God my weakness, right then and there, either mentally or verbally. I let my children witness firsthand what it looks like for me to NEED the Lord.

“Dear Lord, I am frustrated. Help me love like you love. Help me remember how you made yourself nothing. Help me remember you had nowhere to lay your head. Help me remember that you stepped into the mess that was my soul and redeemed it. Help me remember you can relate to me, even in this crazy moment, because the Bible says you were tempted in all ways, just like I am, yet you were always without sin.”

Face the LORD when confronted with the last straw. Face the Lord when you feel like you’re losing control and losing your joy.

Control wrings its hands, but love does something altogether different. Love bears all things. Fear the Lord more than you fear yourself and your failures. Respect the power the Lord has over you more than you tremble at the power of your own sin. Remember Jesus died for all of that already. That work is done. Don’t minimize its significance. He lives in you now, and He’s determined to make you like Him. It’s happening even now.

“The cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15

Lee Stewart



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