One of the things that can be really confusing for those walking a journey of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is when our experiences conflict with what we read in the Word of God. However, it must be a no-contest, firmly-established truth within each of us that the Word of God is the only source of truth in existence. That means whatever it is that we feel is not truth. Only God’s Word is truth! So, when you come across Scriptures like, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” – what happens when you’re walking through a difficult season of sadness, pain or despair that have brought you to your weakest point? Those are very real responses to very real situations in life – how can the joy of the Lord be your strength if you have no joy? How can you experience joy if you’re steeped in a season of sadness or depression of pain?
I want to show you something very, very important about “joy” that you may not have understood before! It will bring you a new strength and it will redefine how you think of strength and joy! Satan has tried to keep you pressed down and crushed in spirit, despairing because you don’t feel strong because you don’t have joy. What a hideous liar our adversary is – but he’s a good one!
The phrase “the joy of the Lord is your strength” comes from Nehemiah 8:10. It is important not to take this little phrase out of context because the context here has nothing to do with the emotion of joy. You know not to walk through this life by how you feel or what you see (2 Corinthians 5:7), so that same principle needs to apply to joy as well. The emotion of joy is just as fleeting as the emotion of sadness. In Nehemiah 8, the people of Israel had fallen into despair because when the law was read to them, they realized they had been living in sin, contrary to the law and they were devastated at their disobedience to the Lord. They wept and cried out. Then, Nehemiah says this, “Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
The Bible makes a clear distinction between the actions of joy and the emotions of joy – they are not the same thing and they do not produce the same results
Here’s the thing: The kind of joy that produces strength has nothing to do with feeling happy. In fact, the Bible makes a clear distinction between the actions of joy and the emotions of joy – they are not the same thing and they do not produce the same results! In Nehemiah, he tells the people to perform the actions of joy (eat the fat, drink the sweet drink and fellowship with others) and then “the joy of the Lord will be your strength.” See, the joy of the Lord that would make them strong would come after performing the actions of joy when they felt weak. The actions of joy are found in one other place – 1 Chronicles 16 – when David had brought back the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David wrote a praise to the Lord in which he tells the people to “sing”, “declare”, “proclaim”, “give”, “bow down” and “tremble” before the Lord saying, “strength and joy are in His dwelling place.” Those are the actions of joy – worship! And therein lies the source of strength: FAITH. The actions of joy are the physical evidence of FAITH that build your spiritual strength.
But what about Psalm 16:11 which says, “in your presence there is fullness of joy”? That word “joy” is the emotion of joy that you feel inside of your heart and mind and soul. You will find this joy within the presence of God and God’s presence dwells most strongly within the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). The emotion of joy is directly tied to how much time you spend in His presence. The fruit of the Spirit called “joy” is grown when you depart from the desires of the flesh – the sinful and carnal behaviors that keep you snared in the consequences of sin.
Thought for today
The actions of joy – the things you do when the emotion of joy isn’t present – are what will bring you strength. The emotion of joy is a completely separate experience and it is very, very important that you don’t confuse the two! Otherwise when things get hard you won’t feel strong because you don’t feel joyful, when in the reality of God’s Word, you must perform the actions of joy, regardless of your feelings and in that you will find strength. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” – how true! Worship the Lord, as David said! Your ministry to the Lord in praise and worship is the ultimate action of joy because you don’t worship when things are good – you worship because GOD is good! Declare His goodness! Proclaim His salvation! Sing to the Lord! Bow down to His Holiness! Give glory to His name! Lift up your hands! THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH.