The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10, KJV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:23, CSB)
You know how sometimes you go to church or an event with a keynote speaker expecting to hear something that will inspire you for the future? Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t.
I have a specific and clear memory of a message our pastor delivered one Sunday morning. This memory is from decades ago, and it still affects and inspires me to this day. His message was called, “If You Let the Enemy Steal Your Joy, He’ll Steal Your Strength.” Whenever life seems a bit daunting, I’m reminded of that message. I recognize that if I spend too much time thinking about the troubles of the world, or my life in general, I can physically feel my strength being sapped.
Think about when you feel tired and sluggish. You don’t really want to do much of anything. Exercise – nope! Read – nope! Interact with someone – nope! Be a couch potato – yep! Take a nap – yep! You can’t think of anything productive to do. Maybe I’m just talking about me, but I suspect there are a lot of you who have felt the same way.
So, why do we need joy? And what’s the difference between joy and happiness? I’m glad you asked. Remember, if we have no joy, we have no strength. We need strength to stand against an enemy who wants to steal from us, destroy us, and kill us. Added to that list of things we don’t want to do when our strength is sapped is prayer. We forget how important it is to pray for the people we love, for the world in crisis, for our neighbors, and even for ourselves. Don’t you see how important joy is?
There are many things that make us happy, but happiness is situational, and it’s not sustainable. You can feel very happy when things are going well in your life but very unhappy and even miserable when things are taking a turn for the worse. Joy, on the other hand, is something you can maintain even when things don’t seem so great. Here are my two favorite definitions of joy:
- Joy is that settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope that comes only from trusting God.
- Joy is a deep and enduring state of our soul that no circumstance, event, or human can steal from us. It’s delighting in God and choosing to rejoice in all things.
When our circumstances don’t line up with our desires, the joy of the Lord can keep us in an unexplainable place of contentment and peace. Philippians 4:7 tells us, And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (CSB). Joyful people don’t allow misery, sorrow, sadness, or despair to rule their thoughts or guide their actions. Yes, you can feel sadness and still have joy.
The joy of the Lord is a supernatural state of being. It’s not something you can manufacture on your own. It comes from the Father above. When we are in Christ, we are given the fruit of the Spirit which includes joy. It’s up to us to activate it.
There is a lot going on in our world right now – frightening things. It would be so easy to wallow in the misery, thus, allowing my strength to wane. Since I need all the strength I can get, I, therefore, choose joy. Yes, it’s a choice. I can either agree with Satan and languish in the mulligrubs or make a decision to choose joy. What’s your decision today?