I had lunch with a friend today and she was telling me of her interest in volunteering at a center here in Maun that helps people with disabilities. This started us on a conversation of living for others rather than living for ourselves. I recalled a time several years ago when God helped me overcome my discomfort around the ailing and elderly by having me volunteer at a retirement center. I was so nervous and unsure, but after my first day of volunteering there, I was totally in love! Those residents were some of the sweetest people I've ever met. I spent a year volunteering there, either helping with exercises, playing dominoes or cards, or just going to individual rooms and visiting with people. I learned so much and appreciated the wisdom held in those walls. God also taught me during that season what joy is found in serving others.
Recently a friend of mine was trying to have a better understanding of joy and contentment. After some internet research, I found a couple of great sites that really ministered to me as well. The overall theme of one of the sites was that our joy is first found in our relationship with the Lord, but after that, we gain great joy in life when we are serving others. I think it is a natural tendency to focus on our own lives, issues, and pursuit of happiness, but as we allow the Holy Spirit to change us, we find that we begin to desire to live more to serve others and focus more on them, being "others-oriented". It's amazing to me because I definitely see that the more focused I am on other people and the less concerned I am with myself, the more my joy in life multiplies exponentially.
Jesus of course set the best example of this "living for others" and putting others' needs over His own. I think Paul's words in Philippians capture this servant attitude of Christ and the challenge for us to follow His example beautifully:
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Phil. 2:3-8
I pray for each of us to be a little bit more "others-oriented" today, and thereby see our joy increase in an amazing way!