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The Joy of the Lord July 24, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God.

I came across an article written by John Paul Jackson of Streams Ministries that really touched and challenged me. I’m going to paste a portion of the article here and then comment on it below.

“Has anyone ever come up to you and tried to encourage you with the following verse? It sounds like a psalm, but it’s actually found in Nehemiah. The joy of the Lord is your strength. You can find this verse all over the Christian world — greeting cards, refrigerator magnets, church bulletins — but what does it actually mean? More specifically, does it really mean what most of us think it does?

In different ways, many of us take this verse to be the Christian life standard: “I will be joyful. The joy of the Lord will be my strength even if it kills me!” When taken to an extreme, this belief literally will kill you because it doesn’t allow you to be real, process pain or genuine joy, grow spiritually or truly know your Father.

Some of us assume it’s a command: “I’m supposed to be joyful all the time, and if I’m not, something must be wrong with me. I have to try harder, because clearly I’m not measuring up.”

Both of these assumptions are entirely wrong. Jesus does not expect you to be joyful all the time. He’s been here; He knows what living on earth is like. He knows it’s hard, and He understands why we fail sometimes. Most of us don’t comprehend this last aspect especially — God actually understands why I did what I did? You mean, He’s not sitting up in Heaven with a judgment stick, ready to sever our relationship the minute I even think the wrong thing?

Not at all. He knows why that step in particular made you stumble. He knows what you’re going through. He knows the thoughts, breaths and nuances of your heart — and loves you. That brings us to what the verse actually means.

The joy of the Lord will be my strength. It’s not that some heightened level of my joy will be my strength; it’s that God’s joy will be my strength. His Fatherly joy. He is so proud of us. We know that God invented laughter, but most of us don’t understand how easily He is amused, how easily He loves and how easily we delight Him.

Someday, when we get to Heaven, He’s going to pop in the DVD of our lives, and we’ll get to sit there and watch it with Him. Yes, we’ll have to give an accounting of what we’ve done wrong, but we forget the other side of that! We forget how He loves us; we forget His joy over our existence.

As He plays the DVD of our lives, He’ll say, “Oh, I loved it there when you did that, son! That blessed My heart so much, daughter! Let Me show you how great that was.” He’ll pull up a dual screen. “Here’s what you were doing, and this is what happened in Heaven when you did it.”

We will get to see what went on in Heaven when we did what we thought were small, insignificant acts on earth. Why did God ever have me do that? we wonder in our day-to-day lives here on earth, only to hear the Father say one day in Heaven, “Wow! Oh! I loved that.”

We bring a huge, galactic level of joy to our Father. We delight Him in ways that are humanly impossible to understand. That is what the joy of the Lord means, and that’s why it is our strength. When we walk in the awareness of His joy, we won’t be able to keep from rejoicing ourselves. This joy is what gives us the strength to endure.”

Wow, huh!?  I read that after a very discouraging day when I felt like I was totally not measuring up, not getting it, falling into the same old patterns and mindsets and unable to escape. I was fighting the familiar thought that God must get awfully frustrated with me.  When I read about how joyful God is, I struggled – I wanted to believe it but it wasn’t jiving with my current discouraged state of being. I started trying to justify my self-critical point of view by going to Old Testament stories about God’s wrath. But then I remembered a teaching I once heard or read that talked about how God’s wrath is just a mirror image of his love. It was his fierce love for the Israelites that drove him to eradicate anything and anyone who might contaminate them, tempt them away from Him. He knew the value of being in right standing with Him and therefore he, on their behalf, fought viciously to protect them. The same is true for us. From time to time we might catch a glimpse of God’s anger or feel just a touch of his wrath, but we must remember that it is not directed at us, but at the sin and the forces of evil that would seek to draw us away from him. The directive to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is perhaps even truer of God and how he views us than it is of us and how we are to view those we witness to. God’s love you…God loves ME! …more than we/I can imagine. His desire for us to be free of everything that entangles us stems from a deep understanding of who we could be without all that junk holding us back, NOT from a frustration that we aren’t meeting some kind of standard. Its the difference between a coach who is totally frustrated at his teams’ performance because the city won’t supply them with the proper equipment and he longs to see each player reach their potential and win the victories he knows they could verus a coach who is angry at his teams’ performance because the players aren’t performing as good as he wants them to.



1. Hamameliss - August 16, 2007

I find it interesting that you found an article on this topic. It’s encouraging to know that there is someone else who views that verse the same way. I think it was over 7-9 years ago that God gave me the revelation that the joy talked about in that verse was really the joy he had in us. A parallel thought is found in John 14 when Jesus refers to us (the saints) as the joy that he looks forward to.

2. Kendall - January 6, 2010

Joy is so misunderstood… but I love that you put this entry. As Christians, we can so easily be in the race, focusing on our shortness of breath… instead of running with the goal in mind. Someone with the right mindset runs and doesn’t even notice their shortness of breath… because the goal, or reward awaiting them is far greater. That’s why the Bible says that we are the, “Joy set before Him.” And because of the Joy set before Him… He was able to bear the cross. So, Joy isn’t just about some kind of “emotion” that makes us smile… it’s about the reward that awaits us at the end of this life…. which is Jesus:)

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