Bethany Miller, wife of Eric Miller (director of ministry operations at CE National) sat down with Janine Lansing to discuss the topic of joy. Janine, wife of Tim Lansing (Urban Hope Los Angeles director), recently wrote and published a book entitled the Joy Filled Soul. Janine said sometimes Christians believe the lie that we need a dramatic testimony or salvation story to have an impact, but this is simply not true. She reminded us that all believers have a story to share. Janine shares much of her story and how she worked to find and maintain true biblical joy in her new book.
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What is your definition of joy and where does it come from?
Joy doesn’t have a specific definition. There are so many layers that it’s more than just happiness. There’s something deeper with joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “In God’s presence there is joy.” There is a peace and contentment that things will be ok because we have Jesus. It’s not an emotion or feeling, it’s a state of being. It comes from God. Jesus talks about abiding in him in John 15. The idea of lingering with Jesus and spending time to get to know Jesus is where the joy comes from. The idea of “the joy of the Lord is my strength” is all throughout scripture. When people are facing trials, what gets them through is what Janine defines as joy.
What’s the difference between joy and happiness?
Happiness is based on our circumstances. There’s no middle ground between happiness and sadness. It’s possible to experience sadness and grief, yet still have joy at the same time. It’s not an emotion. One of the main things Janine says in her book is that joy is not a choice, but the result of our choices. Happiness is more of a choice, you can choose to wake up and try to be happy, but that doesn’t work with joy. Janine shared the example of living a healthy lifestyle. “You can’t wake up and simply say that I’m going to be healthy today, it doesn’t work that way. You have to choose to be healthy over a period of time to be healthy.”
What are things that can steal our joy?
In her book, Janine uses the example of a cup that can be filled with joy. She said sometimes that cup can get holes in it, they can be large or small, but that joy begins to leak out. For her personally, pride was one of these holes. It was a huge eye-opener because she didn’t realize that her pride was getting in the way. She was put in charge of large ministries in her mid-20s, but it came across with arrogance. As a ministry wife, that hurt her testimony. She needed to figure out how to use her gifts with humility and without pride connected to it. Pride “punctured her cup” and was getting in the way of her finding joy in serving the Lord.
Another big stealer of joy is anxiety. Anxiety is a hard topic now. So many people have anxiety. Severe anxiety can sometimes require medical intervention. Janine shared how she needed to change some things in her diet to overcome anxiety. These are necessary steps. However, there is a “worry” that Paul and Jesus address that is completely different from that. Paul talks about not being anxious or worried. It is possible to have joy rather than be in a constant state of fear. We can trust the Lord and he can release us.
Stressful situations and difficult people can also put a hole in our cup. It’s all about how we approach those situations and encounter them. All of our interactions can help with that. We can handle more stress because we have joy and we are with Jesus.
How do you feel about your book coming out during a pandemic?
Janine shared how the book’s release date was changed a few times. She said, “It was God’s timing all the way.” One of the illustrations she shared is the example of a ship in a lock. The ship comes in, the gate closes, and the water rises so the ship can get to the next level. Gratitude, kindness, and love can be the lock system for our joy and raise our joy. She added when we take those things away, our joy drops.
Empathy is like that too–knowing the joy of the Lord comes from Jesus even when we don’t understand. Janine stated that we all have an opinion on this pandemic, wearing masks, when or if to send our kids to school, things like that. Yet no one knows for certain what the right answer is. All of these stresses collide to steal away our joy. Janine said because she knows where her security is (in the Lord) she can just sit and listen to others and have empathy.
As a ministry wife, how is this topic related to our ministry journey?
Janine describes herself as a “recovering people-pleaser.” She was always the helper and wanted everyone to be taken care of, comfortable, and content. As she was thinking about joy, she realized the desire to serve the Lord with this people-pleaser approach was stealing her joy. While being concerned with the needs of others is a good thing, God still needs to be the focus and losing that focus affects joy. Good questions to ask are, “Who am I doing this for?” and “Why do I serve?” It’s important to keep that perspective as a ministry wife and ministry leader.
Loneliness in ministry is all too common without others to verbally share the burden with. Janine learned that leaning into Jesus and finding that he was the source of everything we need. In her book, Janine shares the story of a day when she had a very bad day at school. She describes coming home that night and sobbing on her front porch and all she could do was sing favorite childhood songs about Jesus. She said, “What came over me was that peace. It doesn’t matter if everyone hates me and I messed up…. the joy of the Lord filled my soul that night… and it still happens now when I mess up big time.”
Our job is for reconciliation, not revenge. As Christ followers we are called to mend, not divide. Janine admitted that can be hard when you’re hurting. In ministry it can be especially difficult because it’s a struggle to find a safe space to share that hurt. This is the time to step up and reconcile and that starts with forgiveness. Janine shared that she struggled with that in the past when she was hurt. She said, “I had to struggle with the things that I had to do. As leaders we have to be open. That’s part of it…. It stinks to be lifted up on a pedestal sometimes. We also are supposed to be above reproach and we’re supposed to be that example.” Paul was able to say ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ’. Wouldn’t that be incredible if we could say that to someone? If we are following Christ yet not forgiving, then joy is never going to come.
It can be a struggle to find the balance of forgiving someone when we know that what they did was not ok. However, Jesus didn’t say that about our sin and he still forgave. We live in a self-focused world. We don’t realize our culture is about self and how we can do it. Janine said when she thinks about forgiveness she couldn’t’ do it. It was Jesus who led her to that place and the Holy Spirit at work in her. 2 Peter 1:3 talks about how it’s God’s divine power that has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now unto Him who is able to do far more abundantly… according to the power of the Holy Spirit within me.” We have the ability to forgive and to walk through hard times because of Jesus and the power He lovingly gives us.
How do we refuel ourselves as Christians?
We need to be cautious of the “self-help movement.” This should not be confused with self-care. Taking time for yourself is an important and healthy thing. As Christians though, we need to be careful of the source we are using to refill us. Digging into Scripture and spending time with God should be our source. This is where our joy will come from.
Bethany added that Sabbath rest was meant as an opportunity to stop striving and allow us to take pause–to practice gratitude and remember what God has provided for us. No matter what difficult thing we are facing, we can see how God has provided. Until we slow down, we’ll have a hard time seeing those. The things we engage in, depending on what those are, might make us “happy”, but it’s a temporary thing. We need to find that deeper rooted place that grounds us and brings us joy.
Janine suggested we create a “Joy List.” When we are struggling to see the joy, it’s ok to admit we are struggling and do some of the things we know will bring us joy. For Janine, working with wood gives her joy. God created our whole soul and we can lean into the desires He has given us that make us happy. However, if we go towards the things that make us happy as the source of our joy, we will be disappointed because Christ is our only source. But if having those things shines light or amplifies the joy, then do it!
Bethany reminded us it’s important to always go back to Christ and get in the Word. Do we pray about things as much as we talk about them? Janine added that prayer is not only a privilege, it’s an honor and a joy to be able to do that.
What choices do we need to make to find and retain our joy?
Absolutely, reading God’s Word. It doesn’t have to be a 45-minute inductive Bible study every day. Memorize His Word. It’s still important as adults. Janine shared when she wants to take her thoughts captive, it’s easier when Scripture is in her mind. She added fellowship with other believers, gratitude, kindness, and love are also so important. When our joy is missing, we need to look at how we love others. That may be people in our household or people at work. If we’re not loving them, listening to them, and having empathy, we can’t have overflowing joy.
In closing, Janine said,“When we live in the Spirit, when we linger with Jesus, and love God’s Word, we are in the prime position for joy to overflow.”
Learn more about Janine on her website, janinelansing.com.