“The joy of the Lord is your strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10).
The joy-moment came in the middle of a difficult season of ministry. We’d stolen away on a camping trip to give us some space to breathe. As dusk fell, fireflies began to twinkle in the shadows under the trees. Our children had never seen them before, and they were captivated by the glowing lights of the fireflies’ dance. They joined them, catching fireflies in carefully cupped palms, then releasing them to rejoin the brilliant ballet. Movement in the distance caught my eye. I looked up to see a herd of deer gently cropping the grass beneath the spreading branches of the live oak trees across the campground. Emotion swept through me. It took a moment for me to identify what I was feeling: joy. Despite all the worry and stress of the recent weeks, that hour of quiet beauty was a reminder that God was still with me and was an opportunity to delight in His presence.
In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis said that all joy reminds. Joy “is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be.’” The source of our joy is not a possession or a place, but a Person. Joy reminds because our moments of joy are signposts directing us to Jesus.
Joy’s power to remind is why we can say that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is not the absence of struggle. Joy is delight in the presence and power of God. Joy reminds us that God is real, God is powerful, and God is present in the midst of our pain. These reminders of God’s presence and power give us strength.
We need these reminders because life has a way of stealing our joy. The ministry position we know God called us to turns out to be a season of heartbreak and struggle. Our children hurt, and we feel powerless to ease the pain. Finances are tight. Loneliness aches. Illness or chronic pain steal our energy and our time. In the midst of joy stealers, we need to remember that circumstances don’t determine our joy. Joy is possible when we look for where God is active and celebrate His presence and work in our lives. Those reminders of God’s presence are like rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds, tastes of the greater ‘about to be’ that we will fully experience when we finally see Jesus face to face. Joy gives us strength because it reminds us that we are not alone.
Leigh Powers is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mother of three who is passionate about helping women find their place in God’s great story of salvation. Renewed: A 40-Day Devotional for Healing from Church hurt and for loving well in Ministry is her first book. You can connect with Leigh on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website, www.leighpowers.com.
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