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” (Neh. 8:10) – what happens when you’re walking through a difficult season of sadness, pain or despair that have brought you to your weakest point spiritually and emotionally?
The emotions that come in hard times are very real, raw, human responses to very real situations in life. There’s nothing wrong with feeling depressed, anxious, doubtful, angry, fearful or anything else. God has a wide range of emotions and you’re made in His image, so you can expect that emotions will be part of your experience and response to life’s issues. As bad as things may be, they’ll just get a lot worse, if those emotions are allowed to control your perspective and prevent you from seeing your experiences through the lens of faith or keep you from drawing near to the Lord in those hard times. But let’s get real – how can the joy of the Lord be your strength if you have no joy? How can you experience joy if you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death or steeped in a season of sadness or depression of pain?
Understanding What “Joy” Really Is
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 lair, indeed!
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 feeling of happiness. You know not to walk through this life by how you feel or what you see (2 Corinthians 5:7), so remember that the emotion of happiness is just as fleeting as the emotion of sadness. In Nehemiah 8, the people of Israel had fallen into despair and Nehemiah said 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.“
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 happiness- they are not the same thing and they do not produce the same results! The actions of joy are faith-based, not experience-based! In 1 Chronicles 16 when David had brought back the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he wrote a song 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.
Thought for today: The Joy of the Lord Helps You “Rejoice Always”
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 happiness 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. Psalm 16:11 says, “in your presence there is fullness of joy” and that affects 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). Joy is directly tied to how much time you spend in His presence. The fruit of the Spirit called “joy” is grown when you intentionally depart from the feelings of the flesh.
Isaiah 61:3 says that through Christ you’ve been given “…the garment of praise of the spirit of heaviness.” But here’s the thing about the “garment of praise”, just like any other piece of clothing… you have to put it on yourself! The joy of the Lord is your strength, if you choose to put on the “garment of praise” to fight off the “spirit of heaviness”! 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.
Strengthen Your Spirit to Climb the Mountain in Front of You
- “A Life of Joy and Gladness is Part of God’s Plan for You”
- “He Has Made Me Glad, So How Can I Praise Him For That?”
- “Seeing Faith in Action Will Challenge Your Faith”
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