You know how God is sometimes not-so-subtle about things that he wants us to learn? That happened to me this week! It started when I casually picked up a copy of the devotional my daughter’s preschool provides for parents, entitled “The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength.” Then I saw another banner out front of a church in the neighborhood that encouraged people to choose joy since that’s what sets Christians apart. Then it came up in a conversation with a friend as she shared a tough situation in which she saw joy in the midst of the struggle. And then (because God knows I’m a science geek and need anti-examples to totally understand something…) the opposite of joy filled my interaction with a grumpy person in line with me at a gas station!
All this thought and talk of joy and how it gives us strength arrived during a time of major testing for me in the very same area. I definitely could use some strength in this season, so I spent a few days listening to my life and to Scripture to see what it means for the joy of the Lord to be my strength. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1. When I chose to laugh at the accidental launching of a cup of milk at the dinner table, instead of to lash out at my daughter in my frustration… I felt stronger.
2. When we got the call that Grandpa had passed away on Wednesday morning, and my children and I spent an extra few minutes before school snuggling, crying, and smiling as we recalled wonderful times we had with him… we felt stronger.
3. When my husband was gone all week, I was exhausted from caring for the four girls and our new puppy on my own, and I spent evenings cuddling and giggling with the dog I could be mad at for peeing on my floor… I felt stronger.
4. In the Bible, the original meaning of the passage “the joy of the Lord is your strength” is “the joy (gladness) of the Lord (the one who IS) is your strength (stronghold, safety, refuge).” Because God IS, we can rejoice, and when we do, we find refuge and safety in the midst of whatever tries us. I’m a major word-picture person, so the imagery of a safe stronghold in which my mind can go in tough moments gives me strength indeed!
What does it mean to you that the joy of the Lord is our strength? I’d love to hear of times when you have seen this in your own lives so we can all grow stronger together!