Joy of the Lord
The Joy of the Lord is My Strength
Where do we find joy?
Many people would answer that question with an experience or circumstance. There was great joy in the building when University of Maryland—Baltimore County beat Virginia and became the first 16 seed ever to defeat a one seed in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. When a candidate is elected, there is joy in one camp and sadness in the other. Many people describe the deepest joy of their lives as the moment they first held their newborn baby.
But I’ve learned that joy is deeper than experiences or circumstances. In 1973 Shirley and I led a mission trip for eight middle school teens to Grace Children’s hospital in Port au Prince, Haiti. We were not prepared for the abject poverty we saw. And yet the people possessed a deep joy that was not dependent on having enough to eat or a place to sleep.
The deeper joy of my life—the joy that keeps me joyful in the most challenging circumstances—comes from knowing the living God and trusting Him.
When God’s people were beginning to return from exile in Babylon, God raised up Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The Book of the Law was discovered in the temple, and Nehemiah had it read in public to the people. They were grieving because they realized how much they had failed to keep God’s law. Nehemiah encouraged them with this: “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ ”(Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)
When we have Jesus living in our lives, and we internalize the great truths of scripture, it becomes possible for joy to sustain our lives during incredibly difficult times. The Holy Spirit witnesses to our hearts that we are God’s children. Knowing He is with usbrings a joy that is deeper than the pain of our circumstances. We can find joy in knowing “If God is for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31 NIV) There is joy in knowing in our “knower” that“…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:37-39)
Truth is, joy resides in our relationship with the living God and in our relationships with others, not in experiences or possessions. Winning the championship or getting that new car can bring us happinessfor a moment. But joy is deeper and lasts longer than that.
An old chorus says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”It’s true. The things of earth—both joys and sorrows—cannot negate the joy of knowing Jesus. Knowing Him produces joy that is deeper than the circumstances of our lives.
Jesus said it Himself: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”(John 15:9-11 NIV) His joy in us and our joy made complete! Nothing on earth can give that to us, and nothing can take it away! For deeper joy, go deeper into a relationship with Jesus. The love produces the joy.
Whatever we face today, may we have joy that is deeper!