It took me years to understand what ‘The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) means. I always interpreted it to mean: The joy that God puts inside me, the fruit of the Spirit: the joy I have. But this is not what God says here. He says the joy OF the Lord, the joy that God has, not so much the joy we have from God.
When I understood this, I started to study in the Bible what is ‘the joy OF the Lord’ really is, what did He rejoiced about, what did He say about His own joy. And this is what God showed me:
HIS JOY IS US (yes, you read it right):
‘For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross” Hebrews 12:2
The only reason Jesus endured the cross, is because of the joy the thought of you brought to Him. The joy of having once again an unbroken relationship with you. The joy of unbroken fellowship with you … He has found His pearl of great price and your value in His eyes made Him able to endure anything, even the cross, in order to have you close to Him.
Other Scriptures that reflect His joy in us:
“And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people” (Isaiah 65:19)
“And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more JOY in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 17:15
“He will take GREAT DELIGHT in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will REJOICE over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
2. HIS JOY IS THE FRUIT OF LOVING RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATING WICKEDNESS
His joy was the fruit of His passion for what is right, his hatred for what is wicked, as we can see below:
“You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the OIL OF GLADNESS above your fellows.” Hebrews 1:9
3. HIS JOY CAME FROM HIS DESIRE TO PLEASE THE FATHER AND ABIDING IN HIM
His desire to please the Father and abide in Him. In other words, His joy was the fruit of obedience and delight in God’s thoughts and ways as well as of unbroken communion and intimacy with Him through abiding in Him.
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that MY JOY MAY BE IN YOU, and that your joy may be full. John 15: 10
4. HIS JOY CAME FROM WATCHING THE FATHER AT WORK IN HIS LIFE
His joy came from watching The Father at work, how wise and amazing He was in what He did :
In that same hour HE REJOICED in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Luke 10:21)
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)
How do the things Jesus rejoiced in affect our understanding that ‘the joy of the Lord is our strength”.
Let’s put what we have learnt above together:
Knowing the joy He feels in having a close relationship with us IS OUR STRENGTH.
Have you ever asked Him to reveal to you how He feels about you and what are the joys of His heart? If not, why don’t you stop reading right now and ask Him now, it will only take a few seconds. Ask Him with all your heart.
Loving righteousness and hating wickedness, will lead us to knowing the joy He had which will become OUR STRENGTH.
Delighting to please the Father and abide in His love, will lead to HIS JOY abiding in us to the point of being complete, and that is OUR STRENGTH.
Meditating on the way the Father works will lead us into HIS JOY and it will be OUR STRENGTH.
So, we can see from above the description of what His joy is and He tells us this joy of His will be our strength.
WHAT IS MY STRENGTH THEN?
Knowing how loved I am by Him and how much He wants to have a relationship with me.
Love for righteousness and hatred for wickedness brings us into His joy which is our strength.
Obedience and abiding in His love is our strength.
Meditating on the Father’s ways is our strength.
The joy of the Lord is to us the revelation of and the delight in God’s love for us and of His ways, expressed in awe, obedience and intimacy with Him. This will bring us enormous inner strength.
It comes down to this: ‘Rejoice IN the Lord, again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4
It is the revelation of who He is, how He feels towards us and what He loves that becomes OUR STRENGTH. In other words, it is the revelation of who He is that will give us strength. It is rejoicing IN Him that will bring us strength.
From personal experience I know that if I go through hard times, I can still rejoice in Him – in who He is, what He loves, how He feels about me – and if I turn my eyes in hard times and rejoice in Him, in who He is, then I gain strength to face whatever life throws at me. I have gone through very grievous and stressful times when I have turned my gaze towards this wonderful God and what He is to me, what He did for me.
I remember, at the beginning of my faith, somehow this came so naturally to me, I knew instinctively how to react to the hardships I was going through – living without a mother and with a father who was broken and addicted to alcohol. I would go sit somewhere on the floor with my back to the wall and relax before Him and just tell Him:
Father, you know how I feel, you know the pain in my heart, you know what’s going on, I don’t need to tell you, I just need you to come to me… Just come … and I would wait in silence for Him to come. I knew He loved me, and that’s all I needed to know. Because of this, I could trust Him to come to me when I felt sad, hurt, broken.
And as I waited, He ALWAYS came. Sometimes He came and surrounded me with a deep love, warmth, like a blanket, it was as if He was giving me a hug. Other times I felt like liquid love flow everywhere inside me.
At other times, He would come with a deep peace that made no sense under my circumstances, but yet it was an undisturbed peace that nothing could move and made my problems look so much smaller.
Sometimes He would come with strength, strength inside my soul, in that part of me that felt weak and broken, strength to face my life with all the problems and feel strong and on top of it. I knew His joy to save me, to be with me, to love me and that was all I needed to be strong.
The apostle Paul wrote this Scripture about rejoicing always IN Him from prison. How could he rejoice in such dire circumstances? The prisons in those days were deplorable places to be and he was awaiting a sentence on his life, so he was facing uncertainty about the future and possibly death. How could he write: Rejoice in the Lord always?
It is because this joy is not dependent on our circumstances, it is not dependent on our feelings, it is the joy in who God is, what He loves, how He feels towards me and what His ways are. This joy is timeless and it can be experienced and known during any season, when things go well and especially when things don’t go very well.
Do you know this joy? The joy of how much He loves you, how much He desires an intimate relationship with you? Do you know the joy of thinking about life like Him – loving what is right, hating what is evil? Do you know the joy that obedience to Him and staying connected to Him brings? Do you know the joy of watching the Father work amazing things in your life? This is the joy that can be yours and it is the joy that will give you strength to go through anything.
CALL TO ACTION:
Just go to Him, ask Him to reveal His joy to you (His love, His ways, what He loves and hates) and wait before Him till He makes it very real to you. It is His joy that will carry you through anything.
Once you discover it, you will never be the same again and the circumstances of this life will never have the same negative impact again on you, because you have a source of joy and strength that is out of this world …