Leaders found entry into the pandemic was difficult. Now many are finding the transition out of COVID restrictions much more challenging. Increased burnout, staff transitions and continued uncertainty are taking a toll on leaders everywhere, leaving some of us feeling weary in the marrow of our bones.

Long before the pandemic, I faced a brutal battle with cancer. Tortured alive by more than a year of treatment, joy felt out of reach. But somewhere along the way, I discovered that more than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles. Here are three ways you can begin to fight back with joy as a leader, and encourage others to do the same.

1. Sidle Up to The Lighthearted

With all the responsibilities of work, it’s easy to give into a getter-done, check-it-off-the-list mindset. That’s why it’s so important as leaders to carve out time with people who remind you not to take life, ministry or yourself too seriously. Who tells the best jokes, makes you laugh the hardest and lives as a bundle of joy? Make a list of names. Schedule some time to get together and allow their lightheartedness to rub off on you. Let the happy-go-lucky of life breathe delight into your soul.

2. Create a Portal of Praise

In Philippians 4:4, Paul instructs, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” When the situations we’re facing take our joy, we can still find the refuge of divine delight by reflecting on the faithfulness of God. Where is the place you’re most frustrated and beat down as a leader? Perhaps it’s a room in your church. Your desk. The pulpit. Those empty rows of seats. Go to that place and begin offering up words of worship. Like the prophet Habakkuk: Worship God anyway. Create a portal of praise. You may discover an ever so faint surge of joy.

3. Embrace Mourning as a Discipline

Our culture gives us endless lists of how to accomplish more and celebrate the wins of life. Rarely does anyone speak or make space for mourning the losses. No matter how many wins you’ve managed to string together in a row, losses compounded during the pandemic, too. Unless you allow yourself to enter the cloudy depths of grief and mourning, your emotional bandwidth will contract.

As a leader, you have losses that need mourning. Take a moment. Pull out a sheet of paper. Ask the Holy Spirit what losses you’ve experienced over the last year. What you record might surprise you. Talk to God about each one. Perhaps confide in a spouse or friend or counselor. Allow yourself to rest, reflect and process the pain. Consider writing a lament or a letter to God. Ask for wisdom on how God wants to bring healing.