Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
(Nehemiah 8:10b NIV)
The joy of the Lord is my strength. We hear that a lot in the Evangelical Christian community, but do we really understand what that means? I started working on this post on July 23, when it hit me that we don’t often categorize joy as a “strength”. The joy of the Lord is to be my strength? I would think that the power of the Lord would be strengthening, but no! The verse says joy! Why? What is so special about joy that somehow gives us strength? I decided to explore that.
Dictionary.com defines joy as: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation
Jesus’ love for us as displayed through his death gives us joy. How? We know that he cared enough for us to die. For us. And now we will live in heaven with him forever! Paul explains this as the reason for the apostles’ endurance through hardship in Hebrews:
There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
(Hebrews 11:32-40 NIV emphasis mine)
The early church had strength. Where did this strength come from? I believe it came from their faith in God’s promises, which gave them joy! The martyrs sang praises while being led to their death. Why? Because they are joyful. They rejoice in God’s goodness, knowing that they will receive their reward in full. Paul and Silas are great examples of this, although they were not facing immediate death.
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
(Acts 16:23-26 NIV emphasis mine)
That’s the power of joy! They rejoiced in their suffering, and God came to their rescue. And look at this; the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us joy.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
(1 Thessalonians 1:6)
You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
(Hebrews 10:34-35 NIV emphasis mine)
Recently I’ve been struggling with contentment, wishing God would give me this or that, and there’s a big problem with that. When I’m focusing on what I don’t have, then I can’t be thankful and joyful for what I do have; eternal life with Christ, forgiveness instead of condemnation, the love of our Creator God, and so much more! So, I’ve decided to try extra hard to be thankful for all of my blessings instead of focusing on the things I somehow lack. And with contentment comes joy, and that joy will strengthen me throughout my trials. When we focus our eyes on him, how can we not be joyful?!