I have recently spent some joyless days, days where the joy of the Lord was not my strength. These were times I cried and could not even begin to smile, much less laugh. Circumstances had changed and I was not a happy camper. You probably have had moments like these as well.
Christians have over and over again quoted Nehemiah 8:10: "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
The truth of this statement is that it is not our joy, but HIS joy that is our strength. I had been looking for my own joy and it could not be found.
I went to the Bible to see what it had to say about joy. I found many scriptures and stories about joy and laughter. I reread the story of Sarah laughing when she heard God say she was going to have a child. (Genesis 18) This laughter came from unbelief, a nervous laughter. I've had that type of laughter and it always hid how I felt at the moment. Thankfully, God did not leave Sarah there, but gave her the promised child. We can imagine the joy she must have had when the promise became true! It was the Lord who fulfilled the promise. In my mind, I can picture her laughing again, but this time with real joy.
King David did not always experience joy. The book of Psalms is full of him crying out to the Lord. But David found that in God's presence was the fullness of joy. Joy was not found in himself, but in God.
You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11).
We all have times when things go wrong and suddenly God gives us the ability to laugh. I began to remember the times in my life when laughter had calmed the chaotic moment. Once while my family and I were camping at the beach, a storm suddenly came up and the rain began to come down by the buckets. The campsite we had picked was clean, but was at a low ground level. Some experienced campers told us we should dig a trench around our tent to keep the rain out. The only available shovels were our children's toys. What a sight we were, four adults digging around a tent in the rain with toy shovels. In the midst of the downpour we all began to laugh. God had given us the ability to see the situation with humor.
You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
(Isaiah 55:12 New Living Translation).
Joy is even one of the fruits of the Spirit. It isn't something we do, but something we can ask to be given. It is God's gift to us. I certainly need this gift - to have God's joy in my life.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).
Joy could shine through us if we would let God have his way with us. I have to admit, I was not allowing God's joy to shine through me. I resolved to get in God's presence and have the joy restored, not mine, but His joy. There is a difference. I want to remember that God can restore my joy and give me laughter. I want to live as the scriptures say "in joy and peace."
Yes, in our lives we will experience difficult moments. The scriptures tell us that even Jesus wept, and there is no sin in weeping.
Weeping can remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning
(Psalm 30:5 NIV).
Jesus wept (John 11:35).
After Jesus wept, He restored Lazarus to life again. Those who loved Lazarus must have experienced great joy!
God blesses you who weep now, for the time will come when you will laugh with joy (Luke 6:20, 21 New Living Translation).
May you, along with me, ask God to restore your joy. Remember, apart from God's presence, there is no joy!
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