The first time I met a GPS, she spoke with great authority, clearly calling out directions as our group from Oklahoma navigated the highways of Atlanta. Despite being amazed at her ability to know where we were at any given moment, I had to work hard to overcome my skepticism every time she paused to recalculate. We had hit construction, and our exit was closed. Our sweet-sounding skipper was stumped. Admittedly this GPS was an early model, so her ability to find new paths was limited. Her attempts at rerouting us meant u-turns back to the exit that remained closed. We finally broke out the paper maps and found our way.
Life can feel a lot the same. We think we know the roads we need to follow. We might even have some notion of which exits we should take and which turns to make. But then life shifts unexpectedly, and our route is forced to change.
But there’s no way to make the adjustments or find our way if we don’t first know where we are. Like the GPS, we need to be aware of our position so we can chart our course.
This Journey of Joy we’re on — it’s no different. We’ve identified we desire joy. But how do we get there? It starts with knowing our current location.
You Are Here
Picture yourself standing in a crowded mall — I know, think waaaay back to when you got to be in crowds. You want to know how to get to a particular store, so you seek out the mall map and scroll the surface for the “you are here” dot. Find the store. Map out your path, and draw an invisible line from where you are to where you want to be.
You want joy. As you scan the map, you can see it in the distance, but where are you?
Emotionally. What feelings dominate you these days? Sadness, indifference, boredom, exhaustion, overwhelm, confusion, grief, shame, anger, resentment, frustration?
Mentally. What toxic thoughts influence you most? Self-doubts, fears, worries, anxieties, regrets, cynicism, self-importance, unworthiness, complacency?
Spiritually. Where are you in your relationship with Jesus? Hot or cold? Near or far? Negligent or intentional? Engaged or avoiding? Growing or stagnant? Lost or on track?
Becoming aware of where we are emotionally, mentally, and spiritually helps us identify our starting position. It’s important that we don’t judge ourselves. This is a process of identification only — just know where. you. are.
We also want to avoid comparing ourselves with others. No one else will be exactly where we are, and trying to compare ourselves only invites harsher negative self-talk and worse feelings.
The writer of Hebrews encourages us in this process:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.Hebrews 12:1 NLT
First, this verse tells us, in its own way: You are here. You’re on this journey, in the race of living the Christian life. Then, it encourages us to see that believers have gone before us — people who know the way. In fact, many surround us even now, cheering for us in this race. None of us are alone.
On this Journey of Joy, we travel together. And as we progress on the path laid out before us, we’ll become aware of others who’ve gone before us and made a way. We’ll look to them and to each other for direction and encouragement.
Next, the verse tells us to take off everything that will slow us down and trip us up. Implied in this imperative is an assumption — that we know what those are. In order to run with endurance, or perseverance, we need to identify what slows us down and trips us up. It’s part of knowing where we are. Sin and spiritual dryness can trip us up. So can negative feelings and thoughts.
Figuring out where we are requires us to look within ourselves with vulnerability, humility, and honesty. Last year I went through this very process as I wrestled with roadblocks in my journey of becoming a writer. I discovered feelings and toxic thoughts at the root of my problems.
One particular obstacle was insecurity. My stomach knotted up anytime I’d dare to share my dream with someone. To the point that I wouldn’t tell anyone. Instead, I’d quietly write away on my blog, naively hoping people would just find it.
I finally sat down with God to unpack that insecurity and discovered at the heart of it was a fear of what people would say about my writing, about me. I feared the trollers and the naysayers who spew their viciousness on social media. I worried about how people would respond to my writing. After some soul work, I understood that behind my fear was a desire for people’s approval. The truth to combat this fear — I write for God’s approval.
I’ve made a lot of progress on this fear-front, and I’m getting braver in my invitations. But there came the day when a new blog series was launching. I’d been so excited about this series, yet all I could feel that day was dread. All those fearful questions bogged me down — what if no one likes it? What if all that work is for nothing? What if I’m not really cut out to be a writer?
All those insecurities — they robbed my joy. Those fears took the joy out of what I love doing most.
But I wasn’t helpless. Once I saw what fear was doing, I stripped off the lies and recited the truths. I cut away my lack of faith and threw off the fear. I put my eyes on Jesus and got back in the race.
And so can you.
Fears and Insecurities
Where are you? What steals your joy? Pause long enough to journal about your current location — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually — so that you are clear where you’re beginning this Journey of Joy. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What adjectives best describe how you’re feeling in this season?
- What toxic thoughts do you struggle with most? Why?
- Where are you spiritually? Where would you like to be?
- What fears entangle you as you set out to find joy?
- What insecurities threaten to trip you up?
It’s an extremely liberating experience when we can name our fears and leave them behind. It’s most freeing to be able to identify our insecurities so that we can overcome them with God’s truths.
In my own journey of rooting out my fears and insecurities, I journaled a lot. One night in particular I picked up a guided journal instead of my usual blank one, and the author asked me to focus on the word freedom until something concrete, like an image, formed in my mind.
I admit I didn’t have great expectations for what would “appear.” But I sincerely wanted to hear from God, so I asked Him to show me an image for freedom. After a bit, a most specific, old fashioned key came to mind. At first I had no idea what to think of that, but I dutifully picked up the journal and let my thoughts flow freely. What emerged was remarkable. It absolutely led me to understand my underlying insecurities associated with writing.
How about you? Give it a try. Close your eyes and ask God to give you an image that would mean freedom to you. Allow yourself to relax, still your thoughts, and be open to what He has for you. Assume nothing. If your mind has a hard time settling, keep asking, “What is freedom?” or saying, “Jesus, show me.” Then journal about your experience, allowing your words to come spontaneously, without care for spelling or grammar or punctuation. And without judgment.
Freedom to Move Forward
Identifying where we are as we begin our journey will free us to run this race unentangled. We’ll discover a freedom to be more honest with ourselves, with God, and with those who run with us. We’ll uncover fears that have dictated our steps our whole lives, whether we realize it or not. And we’ll find in God and His Word all the truths and power we need to keep moving forward in our pursuit of joy.
“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.”Jeremiah 15:16
Jeremiah may not have literally ingested Scripture, but he did allow its words to be digested deep within his being. As God’s Word fed his soul, Jeremiah discovered them to be his joy and delight. And for no other reason than he was God’s son.
You are God’s most beloved daughter. No matter where you are on life’s path, you are still His. And He is yours. No matter how overwhelmed you feel, God is the great Overcomer, and He promises to help you to conquer all you fear and face (Romans 8:37). No matter your insecurities, sins, or anything else that threatens your forward progress, Jesus is there — ready to set you free (Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:1)!
We’re getting our bearings so that next week we can map out our travels. The last thing we want to do is launch out on this journey only to be so disoriented that we can’t find our way to joy. That kind of depaysement can be avoided if we’ll take the time now to make sure we know where we’re starting from. So, don’t stop here. Pray. Read Scripture. And do the journal work.
Then share in the comments with our travel group some of your discoveries. You don’t have to give all the gory details — but let us know the snare that traps you most. Naming it will empower you in overcoming it.
I’ve been getting my own bearings for this trip, and I’m seeing that my obstacles to finding joy are rooted nearly subconsciously in my fears (do you see a theme in my life?). Specifically, I am discovering that I often try to shield myself from feelings I think will overtake me — like sadness. I’ll avoid situations, conversations, people, and even books and movies if I think they will cause me to lose control of my sad emotions (control — another theme in my life).
As I self-preserve this way, I may avoid feeling sad — at least for a while — but I also miss out on feeling joy. Looking back, I can see I’ve been this way my whole life. I chose not to go to my grandma’s funeral when I was in the eighth grade because I was afraid of how it would make me feel. I was careful not to get too close to my students those early years of teaching out of fear I’d be too sad when they moved on. I’ve been known to hide in a quiet room to avoid all the sad goodbyes in the bigger crowd.
It’s a pattern. One that I haven’t often been aware of. But now I am.
So, I know where I am — if I want joy, I’m going to have overcome fear and risk sadness. But with Jesus and His truth, with my friends and your encouragement, I can stay the path.
You can, too.
Turn on that GPS and find where you are.
So glad to get my bearings, Shelley
- Grab a few travel buddies for our journey — invite others to join us! You can share on social media, copy and paste the link in a direct message to someone, or ask them to check out shelleyjohnson.me.
- Take time to process this week’s journaling prompts within the post.
- If you’d like a new journal, I found one on Amazon that fits our travel theme!*
- Share your experiences and revelations by commenting below.
- Did you remember our “egg hunt?” Did you find this week’s travel word?
- Last week’s travel word was fernweh — A German word capturing the feeling of “farsickness,” which is akin to homesickness, only for places you want to travel to.
- Our Journey of Joy playlist on Spotify has multiple songs on it that thematically follow our theme. I’d love to hear what songs/lyrics resonate with you! I added song this week!
*This is an affiliate link, so I’ll receive compensation for any purchases made.