Joy Work

Sr. Regina Bechtle shares reflections about making space for joy in our lives.

May 18, 2022

By Sr. Regina Bechtle

Among the rich readings in the Scriptures, I love Jesus’ last discourse; John’s Gospel places it at the Last Supper. One of my favorite quotes is Jesus’ “command”: “Remain in my love…so that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete.” (John 15:9,11) When was the last time you thought about joy? Talked about joy? Felt joy?

I have a Sister-friend in full-time ministry in a girls’ high school. She juggles it with theological research and writing, membership in several professional groups and on committees for her congregation, family responsibilities and community duties. A mentor once told her that, in order to avoid burnout, each day she should build in “joy work” – adding to her daily “to-do” list something she really loved to do. 

Minister and writer Tish Harrison-Warren wrote in a recent New York Times Opinion piece (April 24, 2022), “How to Cultivate Joy Even When It Feels in Short Supply”: “Joy is both a gift and a practice, but it isn’t primarily a feeling any more than self-control or faithfulness are feelings. It is a muscle we can strengthen with exercise.” What a great post-Easter, pre-Pentecost resolution: to exercise the muscle of my joy!

Of course, it’s less about my putting effort into yet another “to-do,” and more about making space for God, remaining in Christ’s love, so that joy might come to life in me.  

SC Associate Mary Barrett Herbst shared this related reading from a daily missalette: “We always need to abandon ‘performance’ when it comes to God, and walk instead into the arms of encounter.

Sure, the floor is uneven, but our self-improvement resolutions should be jettisoned since they keep us from dancing. The arms of encounter are held out by the Tender One, who wants us to gravitate in that direction.”  Mary added, “So, don’t ever say what little I do or anyone does, at any age, for God! It’s an ‘attitude’ of joy in God’s presence. There isn’t anything that God needs me to do except to be with Him and be joyful! It will show!”

“Remain in my love…so that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete.” Just imagine the ripple effects. And won’t those around you be surprised!

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