i don’t know about you, but i find that joy is one of the hardest things to maintain in life. with the humdrum of responsibilities and burdens and need and busy-ness, i usually find the first thing i tend to lose my hold of is joy. mundane and typical and stressed and weary and tired tend to creep in quite often, and though i may get things done, they aren’t always done full of joy.
this is what i’ve come to learn… the Bible says “…in Your presence is fullness of joy…” (psalms 16:11) most often, when i find i am running low on joy, it is usually because i am running low on “His presence.” in Christ, i find all the joy and energy and creativity and wisdom and answers and direction and hope and uplifting that i need – yet i so often turn to other things (other sources) instead of Him, as if those things i need will come from them. i turn to TV, entertainment, sleep, blogs and books and asking 23 other people what they think about what i’m going through… all the while, totally ignoring the source of EVERYTHING i seek. not that any of those things listed are inherently bad (although they certainly can be!)… but when i’m using any of them to replace the Ultimate Source, it is foolish! it’s like having a garden full of healthy veggies, but then getting “imitation vegetables – tastes just like the real thing!” from the supermarket… why?
i think this is why satan does anything and everything to keep us from God’s presence… he KNOWS it is where our strength comes from…and the weaker we are, the easier targets for his attacks. think about it…it isn’t merely coincidence that while you are having “quiet time,” is when the phone rings 10x and your kids wake up an hour early from their nap or you suddenly notice a crack in the ceiling that wasn’t there or you start mentally making a shopping list or trying to remember the lyrics to a song you used to sing in 3rd grade…. i believe it is often intentional to get you to “hurry up” or “do it later when i really have more time” or to miss out on what the Lord is trying to speak to you…
OR, you get super busy the evening you’re meant to have Bible study with your crew, or on sunday, you wake up with a headache or a toothache that was NOT there saturday night… y’all, any which way satan can interrupt and reduce our being in the presence of the Lord, he will! we have to GUARD our SOURCE OF STRENGTH.
in warfare, the sources of fresh water and food are ZEALOUSLY guarded because any good soldier knows that they won’t last long in battle if they are weak from hunger and thirst! are you guarding your source of Living Water? of Living Bread? or are you casually allowing the enemy to steal that from you??? one day, you’ll wake up to a major battle and find you unexpectedly have so little strength – but if you look back, you can see that the source of strength and life has been tampered with, has been left unguarded and un-fought for. FIGHT for that time with the Lord… so much depends on it!
“do not be worried, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and your stronghold.” (nehemiah 8:10b (amp))
the JOY of the LORD is my STRENGTH… if i am running low on strength, it probably means i am running low on joy…and if i’m running low on joy, then it’s probably because i’m running low on His presence.
not only is His joy my strength, but my STRONGHOLD … my safe place, my secure place! i think of a stronghold as like a fortress where you fight a battle from, or where you hideout when the going gets tough! this verse says His joy is that place for me… when financial need attacks, my safest place is His JOY. when sickness seeks to take me down, my refuge is His JOY. when relationships have become hurt or complicated, the best place for me to work it out is His JOY!
notice it says “the joy OF THE LORD is your strength”… not the joy of TV or the joy of so-and-so or the joy of instagram or the joy of a great meal… the joy of JESUS is where we are strong!
remember, there is a difference between joy and happiness…
happiness is circumstantial – when things are well and good and wonderful, then i am happy. and when things are not well or good or wonderful, then i am unhappy.
but joy is not circumstantial – no matter what is going on around us, we can still have joy!
can i encourage you today? if, like me, you find yourself needing a dose of joy, then get in His presence! put on your favorite worship music in your home, lift your hands and raise your voice and sing!! TURN OFF YOUR PHONE and give God some time of undivided attention…pour out your heart to Him, cast all your cares on Him… read the Word and write down what He speaks to you! i can GUARANTEE you that when you are done, when you have been in the “fullness of joy,” you will find strength has filled you afresh, even IF you’re circumstances haven’t YET changed!!