True Joy Is More Than a Mood

Do you love a good secret as much as I do? Whether it involves a new anti-aging cream or tips for building authentic relationships, I’m eager to uncover fresh, helpful information. Secrets also imply something hidden deep within the secret teller’s heart and mind. We expect their secrets to unveil special new insights that just might help us in our day to day lives. 

Fortunately for us, at least three secrets of a joyful leader have been hiding in plain sight—within the pages of God’s Word. Whether leading your children, your discipleship group, or your women’s ministry team, you can press forward with joy, despite the disappointments and burdens that come with leading. The Bible speaks clearly and often about the joy with which we can—and should—lead. 

Three Secrets of a Joyful Leader

1. A joyful leader abounds in hope.

We serve the “God of hope” who can fill us with all joy and peace, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can thrive and flourish in that hope (Rom. 15:13)! Hope is the fertilizer in our garden of joy. Without hope, we grow puny and weak, wilting with worry over all that surrounds us. 

What is our hope? That serving Jesus Christ in whatever capacity He asks us to is worth it! Paul tells the Colossian believers that their love for all the saints is fueled by the hope of heaven, where they will receive their reward (Col. 1:5; 3:23). It will be worth it! Peter teaches us that we are born again to a living hope, to an inheritance kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:3–4). It will be worth it because Jesus is worth it! When we stand with those “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb,’” we won’t feel a nano-second of disappointment (Rev. 5:11–12). In fact, we will be overcome with the glory of it all. That is the hope that puts a smile on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes as we lead with joy.

2.cA joyful leader is secure in her happiness.

Dad Ortlund used to say, “I refuse to do anything but rejoice in God.” And he said this throughout his whole life, even in all the heartaches and exhaustion of his expansive ministry. He sought to be a living example of verses like, “My heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices” (Ps.16:9) and “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). And also, 

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord: I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab. 3:17–18)

Dad understood—and taught me—that rejoicing in the Lord doesn’t deny my very real leadership failures and fatigue. Rejoicing in the Lord accesses Christ’s even more real grace and power, enabling me to carry on in genuine happiness.

You see, true joy is more than a mood. God invites us to settle into a deep and lasting happiness as we serve the Lord in our leadership roles. We get to serve the God of the Universe! He chose us to be His hands and His voice as we learn to welcome the whiner (again), comfort the grieving, gently correct those who are confused, and suggest new pathways for the stymied. 

There is joyous happiness in spending ourselves on eternal things—like others’ souls (2 Cor. 12:15)! Why not give ourselves completely away to Jesus, eagerly running the race that He has personally laid out for each one of us? Then, when we take that final step across the finish line of our earthly journey, we can fall joyfully exhausted into His loving embrace, grateful throughout all eternity that we had the delightful privilege of showing Him to others during our very brief time on earth.

Sure, plans sometimes fail, people often disappoint, and resources frequently run dry. But the Christian leader can confidently tally those “trials of various kinds” on the joy side of her life-ledger, knowing that her faithful God has the crown of life awaiting her (James 1:2, 12).

3. A joyful leader finds her joy in Jesus, not in her circumstances.

How does the joyful leader stay relaxed and cheerful? How does she keep pouring out the life-giving fragrance of Christ, day and night, year after year, to all who come to her? By staying very near to the source of all joy, God Himself. “In your presence there is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). We carve out regular time to spend in His joy-filled presence with open Bibles and open hearts, overflowing in expectant communion with our Creator. We learn to lean into Him when the fatigue and frustration creep in and threaten to drain us, because when Jesus is the source of our joy, no one can take that joy away (John 16:22).

The joyful leader knows that the source of her joy is Jesus, not how many followers she has. Her mindset is not reaching a certain number of ministry goals, but Jesus and the pure joy of getting to serve the One who means more to her than anything or anyone! She is joyful, not because of any ministry successes, however those might be defined and attained. She is truly happy because the joy of her Lord is her strength, and His joy is inextinguishable.

Hopeful, secure, and holding fast to Christ—this kind of leader is filled with joy. What an amazing privilege to spend our lives joyfully serving our kind King.

About the Author

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund is the Executive Vice President of Renewal Ministries. Serving Jesus through writing, speaking, and discipling are her chief passions in life. Jani and her husband Ray, Pastor of Immanuel Church, have four married children and fifteen grandchildren and minister in Nashville, Tennessee.