by Heather Bock
This week is not really any different from last week. I’m harried, hurried, packed, and strapped like many of you. I’m doing too much, and I’m working on cutting back, but some major commitments have to be fulfilled before I can drop them. In the meantime, it is easy to let joy get slowly sucked out of my life as I face unending work, especially as the work and my choices are keeping me from daily spending the kind of deep, meaningful, quality time with my Lord that I need so much.
I believe God had me write last week’s blog post on this topic and then had me stretch it out, so I’d have to work on it another week on purpose. At any rate, if not for anyone else, He’s certainly using these posts to pull me back on track, to keep me choosing joy and thankfulness when I start heading into the territory of complaints and bitterness, which is not a pretty place.
More than ever, I need God’s strength, which comes from His joy.
Last week, through the book of Nehemiah, I learned how we are given the ability to some extent to choose joy. I also noted through my own experiences that although I have some ability to choose, I need God to ultimately give me the joy I seek. He gives it to me when I pray and focus on His goodness. How, though, does this joy translate into strength?
I found it interesting that the exact word for joy (chedvah) used in Nehemiah is only found in one other place in the Old Testament, and in that other place, I Chronicles 16:27, strength is also connected with it: “Splendor and majesty are before [the LORD], Strength and joy are in His place.” The strength mentioned is “a place of safety, fastness, harbour, stronghold” (Strong’s). Thankfully, this strength doesn’t come from more godly willpower. It simply links arms with the joy of the LORD. After all, as Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” I believe there are at least three ways that God’s joy gives us strength.
First, joy gives us the strength to not be moved. Charles Spurgeon writes about a joyful person: “Whatever happens he is not ruffled or disturbed. He is not afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. The ruffled man is ever weak.” Part of choosing joy is choosing to trust the Lord even when our days don’t go the way we’d like them to go. As we trust the Lord, as Spurgeon wisely points out, we will not be afraid, and a woman who is not afraid is a strong woman.
Let me go back to my examples from last week. When I chose not to get frustrated with my child slowing down my preparations, when I chose joy and trust over the fear of what would happen if I wasn’t ready to teach in time, I felt stronger. I didn’t allow the circumstances to shake me.
Second, joy gives us the inner strength to not worry overmuch about what others think of us. Part of my worry about being late stems from a fear of my peers thinking I’m incompetent or irresponsible. Even if I did leave my house late due to a lack of responsibility, does that change the fact that I’m dearly loved by God? Can’t God still use me despite my failures? If other people reject me because of where I lack, besides God not rejecting me, don’t I still have all the blessings He’s already given me? When I focus on His goodness and love and choose joy, I’m strong in the knowledge of who I am and what I have in Him.
Third, joy gives us the strength to willingly do all we’re required to do. How much stronger are we to our task when we have joy while doing it? Work is always harder and drags on longer when we have a bad attitude about it, but it flies by when we have a glad heart. Anyone who has put fun music on while performing dreaded chores will understand this, but even better is when the fun music is worship music, too. All of a sudden the work itself becomes worship, and the heavy iron dumbbells of task become as light as an inflatable, as the joy of worship gives strength.
So what do we do with this strength? Well, if we look at the people of Israel in Nehemiah again, we’ll see that we can use it to perform service to God, obey His commands, and resist our spiritual enemies (Matthew Henry). We need to use God’s strength to do whatever He has put in front of us to do. I have plenty of that right now, and I know I’m not alone. I pray that you will be able to choose joy, which in turn will give you the strength you need each day.
If you have other thoughts about this, I’d love to hear them–you can comment below!
I’m still in the middle of a book giveaway for Mike Bechtle’s book I Wish He Had Come with Instructions. All new subscribers win a chance to own this book for themselves. I will announce the winner on Saturday, when Mike himself will be guest posting for me! I hope you won’t miss it!