With a sneer, you may have clicked open this post. The Joy of the Lord. Ha! Whoever wrote this must have cried over nothing more than a stubbed toe.
Not true. I don’t dare compare my sorrows with yours, but please accept the fact that I’ve filled up my own bottles of tears. And yes. I’ve found the joy of the Lord is my strength.
A little history first.
I always thought the phrase, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” came from the Psalms. It doesn’t. Although there are plenty of verses referring to the Lord as your strength, refuge, or strong tower.
The verse comes out of Nehemiah. Chapter 8 verse 10. The exiled Israelites had returned to their land with the Persian king’s blessing. They had rebuilt the temple and the wall around Jerusalem. Ezra read the neglected scriptures to them, and they realized how ignorant and disobedient they had been to their own faith. They wept.
But Nehemiah owned a different attitude. He encouraged them. He told them (my paraphrase), “Don’t weep. This is a holy day. You are a group who has obeyed the Lord. Now, you can teach your children what is good and right in God’s eyes. So, eat. Drink. Share with those who don’t have enough. The joy of the Lord is your strength!”
These people had been deprived of their homeland. After severe harassment, they had persevered with a new temple and city wall to prove their God was stronger than anything else on earth. Although they still were subject to another nation, at least, they had “come home.” JOY!
Years ago, a praise chorus, “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength,” was popular.
It also spoke of living water and healing broken hearts. More reason for joy! But at the same time, “broken hearts” proves God is quite aware that His people live in a fallen world and not all of life is cuddly puppies and giant lollipops. When I’m having a bad day, the Holy Spirit often brings that praise chorus to mind. And on good days, joyful songs bubble out of me “from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same.”
Life Is Beautiful
The whole world has spent the last two years dealing with a pandemic. Not only with sickness and death, but the economic, emotional, and educational fallout from closed businesses and schools. Where is the strength? How can anything be joyful about that? Let me give you an example of how people shared their joy as the virus took hold.
One of my favorite movies is titled Life Is Beautiful, the story of a man and his son who were placed in a concentration camp in World War II. He taught his son to find beauty in their world, even in the midst of filth and violence and death.
Each of us has passed through or will pass through a season of sorrow, of sickness, of bleeding from wounds caused by the violence or carelessness of another. Can you find strength? Yes! Can you know joy? Yes! Because Jesus is right beside you, lending His strength and filling your soul with calm waters.
Have you found joy in the midst of sorrow? In the midst of pain? Would you share with me how God brought you that blessing?
And if you haven’t found joy but would like to, please let me know. I will pray for you.
Thanks for this encouraging post! Like how you shared it came from Nehemiah when they rebuilt the wall. Gives us perspective for sure!
Did see that movie, Life is Beautiful, and touching how the father created a world for his son in the midst of hell. Great metaphor of our Heavenly Father who doesn’t pretend though but truly transcends us above this fallen world. Well written Linda!
Thank you, Sarah.
Thank you – a timely reminder for me this summer, during an anniversary of loss.
Anniversaries of sorrows bring back all those feelings. Praying for you.
I have clung to verses such as the one above during times of grief and despair; more than that, I lived it. Romans 12:2 speaks of Jesus enduring the cross “for the joy set before him;” I eventually found joy after losing four loved ones suddenly in the span of less than a year, three to suicide, and less than three years after losing my daughter.
I certainly didn’t believe or accept this verse in the midst of my suffering. It was only after he had walked with me in and through my grief that I was even able to sit through worship services. It was the fact that Jesus Himself was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” that helped me seek him out again.
Yes! The Man of Sorrows was there right beside you in the midst of your suffering when you couldn’t even lift your head for the pain. But He gave you strength, and joy that had pooled in the depths of your soul flowed to the surface once again.
I smile as I remember that my joy comes from Him. The joy of the Lord is my strength. Amen. My husband and I attended the funeral of a dear friend today. We were blessed to hear wonderful stories about the life of our friend. Many of those stories were filled with joy and allowed us to laugh during a time of sorrow.
There is definitely joy in celebrating the Christian life well lived.
Great post Linda. It’s so important for us to share our stories so others can learn how to find the joy of the Lord.
Thank you, Yvonne. It’s one reason I started writing!
Beautifully stated, Linda. I love this reminder that those who say that “life is cuddly puppies and giant lollipops” are wrong. Life IS hard, and we cannot live it without Jesus by our sides and His Holy Spirit indwelling us!
Thank you, Melinda. I can’t imagine living without Jesus.
Same here, Sarah. I came back to revisit your post today because it’s such an encouragement. I really needed these refreshing words. So much trauma over the past two years, even though no one in our family was harmed severely by COVID, even though many had it. The restrictions. The loneliness. All of this began as we were just adjusting to a new home in a new town with a new church. I now no longer remember the names of people I met before the lockdown, and I feel like I had to start all over again as a stranger. It has been a lonely time. I’m still relying on the fellowship of my friends from our home in Michigan, far, far, far away. And then, Jesus. He is near to me. It helps to binge watch The Chosen.
Melinda, I’m glad these words provide encouragement and refreshment for your soul. It’s my prayer that the words I write every time I sit down at the computer are inspired by the Father Himself.
I remember when you first moved and how the pandemic affected it, but I didn’t realize the problem continues to this day. I will be praying for warm and lovely connections to be made between you and your neighbors and you and your church.
Such a wonderful and authentically uplifting post! The book of Nehemiah is one of my favorites, and I think it’s because they were dealing with major difficulty yet, though Nehemiah’s encouragement and his hard work with them in the midst of it, they clung to their faith and DID IT. We, too, can cling to beauty amid hardship. I love how you describe this as finding “beauty … even in the midst of filth and violence and death.” AMEN amen!
Thank you very much, Jessica!
I love Nehemiah’s call to follow and obey. Thanks, Linda. God bless.
Thank you, Nancy.
Linda, I’ve always loved this passage in Nehemiah and is life of obedience to the Lord. While it’s not easy to understand how joy from the Lord is strength, it certainly proves true when we look at the example of Nehemiah and his life.
I know, Karen. It takes personal experience to understand how joy in the midst of sorrow is possible. And while I don’t wish that experience on anyone, if you must go through a horrible trial, you will find the truth of “the joy of the Lord is your strength” as you hang onto Christ by your fingernails!