Can you do something for me? Focus. Think really hard. I need you to think of a moment in the past, and it might be hard to do. Ready? Okay.
How did you feel on Christmas morning? Before you got out of bed, just as your eyelids were flickering open. Just as you were realizing it was that day that only comes once a year – December 25th.
Were you excited? Did you do a flying leap out of bed, squeal loudly in anticipation, and go find someone else to share the excitement with? If not, think to a Christmas morning when that was the case. Can you even remember one?
What would you call that emotion? Mostly I’ve heard it described as “joy”.
I’m teaching Drama this semester to a bunch of middle schoolers, and yes, I’m super-stoked about it. I assigned them a project last week, and I’m interested to see how well they’ll do. I asked them to go take ten candid pictures of people, and describe the emotions being displayed. I don’t expect a one of them to come up with a picture that they label “joy”.
“Joy” that elusive Christian word that no one has ever been able to describe or explain well to me. I just know it’s a choice, like love. That joy is something every Christian is supposed to feel. That it goes beyond happiness. That joy is so much deeper than just feelings. And I know it has something to do with God.
When I was a kid, we used to sing a song about joy in church. It went something along the lines of “The joy of the Lord is my strength / the joy of the Lord is my strength / the joy of the Lord is my strength / the joy of the Lord is my strength”. It has a couple more verses, all as simple as this one, but I don’t remember them as well.
So I’ve always been taught that I was supposed to have joy. That it was my Christianly duty to be joyful…somehow…whatever that means.
And I was thinking about that the other day. I was trying to figure out what that meant. “The Joy Of The Lord Is My Strength”. I mean, how can an emotion (or even a choice) be your strength? And then I started thinking. The song says the joy OF THE LORD is my strength. Does that mean it’s not my joy (that I don’t understand anyway) at all that’s my strength? But God’s joy? What does that even look like? How can GOD’s emotions, God’s joy, be my strength? Actually, I like that better than it being MY emotion being my strength. I know my emotions better than that – they change too quickly.
So I looked up the verse that the wonderfully repetitive song is from, and it’s in Nehemiah, after he had just rebuked everyone for not fulfilling the law. He had just told everyone that they needed to shape up. And when they repented, he told them to buck up, to go party, because “the joy of the Lord is your strength”.
And as I was thinking about this, I remembered my college days, and how I loved pleasing my theater professors. I worked harder for them than anyone else. I was willing to put off sleep for them. I was willing to skip meals in order to get done whatever needed to be finished. Not because I wanted their acceptance, but because I loved to see them smile over my work. I thrived on seeing their delight with every little bit of the show they envisioned coming to completion, that I had helped become a reality. I loved being the little part of their grand scheme.
And I think the same is true with God. I think it’s HIS delight in what we offer, HIS joy in us fulfilling our little part of His grand scheme that should bring us joy. Whether it’s in being faithful to our duties at school or work. Whether it’s loving someone hard to love – the annoying classmate or hurtful co-worker, the mother that just doesn’t get you, or the father that’s too restrictive, or even just the jerk who cut you off on the road today. Whether it’s persevering in a hard relationship, or job, or whatever God has called you to. I think it’s HIS delight in our obedience in such situations that brings us strength. Which kinda defines joy as God’s delight in us and our faithfulness. I don’t know if this is scripturally accurate or not, but it makes a lot of sense with every scripture I’ve read.
So, I guess I’m asking you to remember when you’re in those hard situations, or in the wonderful ones that God’s enjoying right alongside of you, that the joy of the Lord is your Strength. God’s joy is your strength. God’s delight in your actions is your strength. Remember that. Remember that everything you do is for Him. And I think joy almost makes sense then, it’s almost clear. Almost, but not quite.
The Joy Of The Lord Is Your Strength today!