Finding Joy in the Lord
One of my mother’s favorite verses is located at the end of Nehemiah 8:10:
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.”
I’m sure that you, like me, struggle with staying happy and upbeat all the time. It’s simply not possible. I remember often looking at the italicized piece of the verse that my mother kept on a table to remind herself to mediate on this truth, and thinking, "Why is it so hard to keep a hold on happiness?" Why is it so hard to have joy?
The adult answer is that, of course, it isn’t easy to feel happy all the time. But “happiness,” in our understanding of the word, isn’t the same as true joy. Joy in all things is something that we are meant to strive for (Galatians 5:22), but it is too easy to get caught up in the idea that we are supposed to seek our own happiness…at all costs. I was reminded at a recent bible study at my church that it is too easy to set myself up as the center of the universe.
True joy cannot be found outside of the Lord. Let me repeat that: True joy cannot be found outside of the Lord.
I’ve felt and seen myself struggle with this truth too often. The “pursuit of happiness” outside of the Lord often makes me feel more drained…Can anyone relate to that? What does “joy of the Lord” mean? It isn’t the same thing as walking around with a smile permanently plastered on your face. I’ve come to realize that it means so much more than that.
Earlier in the book of Nehemiah, the returned Israelites finish rebuilding the temple. Now they have all gathered together to praise and worship the Lord. What happens in between Nehemiah 1 and Nehemiah 8 is what makes this statement so significant. The Israelite workers were attacked on multiple occasions, but they were told to never give up because the Lord was with them. And now they are told that the joy of the Lord is their strength…might I add, it was their strength during times of trouble, it was their strength when they desperately needed to be strong physically and spiritually, and would now continue to be their strength through times of peace and happiness.
Joy in their knowledge of and relationship with the constant Lord provided a constant supply of strength and something that was stronger than happiness – pure joy.
Do you see how this verse, this story, is applied to our daily lives? For me, this verse is a reminder that my circumstances and emotions might change, but the Lord never will. I have strength and courage and joy in Him that will not be shaken. I don’t always choose to acknowledge that truth when I wake up every morning or when something goes wrong and my emotions spiral out of control, but it should be there. The absence of that missing stability often springs to my mind more often than anything else, and that is not okay.