Do you ever find yourself singing the songs you used to sing in Sunday School as a child? Oh, I am the only one. Well regardless, there is a song that often pops into my head (as if there weren’t enough stuff bumbling around in there) and it simply bounces along singing, “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” It’s a fun little tune, but sometimes I find my strength failing and joy isn’t always a present reality and I just feel like I am a bit of a wet blanket to those around me and I wonder to myself, “Is this what a Christian is supposed to be like?” So being a bit of a Bible reader, I decided to figure out where this little ditty came from to see if I could make sense of my emotions in the wake of God’s joy being my strength.
In Nehemiah chapter eight we find the people of Israel encountering the words of God fresh and anew post-exile through Ezra reading them aloud. The people are so overwhelmed at the rediscovery of the words of God that they listened from daybreak to noon and their response was worship and weeping. But Ezra declared to the assembly that this was not a day for weeping, but rather a day for rejoicing. Take joy in the moment! God is overjoyed at what is happening here! Take choice food, wine and celebration to those who have none and celebrate what God has done! And the joy of the Lord becomes your strength!*
Wow! What a picture! God’s joy comes through our celebration of his faithfulness and provision within the community of His creatures! So maybe, I have to enact God’s joy in order for my strength to be renewed? God has been faithful in providing me with a family…so maybe I should be very celebratory of the time I get with them. God has given me the changes of the seasons and renews the face of the earth…so maybe I should go out an d enjoy the coming Spring and Summer!
So maybe I find God’s joy in walking in the rain, jumping in mud puddles, smelling flowers, stopping along the way, building sandcastles, watching the moon and stars come out, saying hello to everyone, going barefoot, going on adventures, acting silly, dancing, flying kites, laughing and crying for the health of it, wondering and wandering around, saying the magic words, asking lots of questions, riding bicycles, drawing and painting, seeing things differently, falling down and getting up again, talking with animals, looking at the sky, staying up late or climbing trees. Maybe the Joy of the Lord is found in being a Child of the King. May I never forget who I belong to and always trust my Father. And maybe when I don’t feel like it….hopefully someone will challenge me to a barefoot race!
* An Arp paraphrase of Nehemiah 8:1-10