This past week I was in Ruston, LA speaking to the wonderful women who attended the R & R conference there. It was a blessing to see many churches coming together to laugh, learn and grow as women in the body of Christ. The topic was Joy for the Journey. Here are some thoughts I shared with them.
As much as we would love for life to float along at a slow and safe pace, we all know the reality that we will experience challenges in our life. One reassurance we have as followers of Christ is that God will not leave us. We may be called to persevere through trials and be patient in tribulation, but God can still bring hope. Perhaps you have wondered, Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Surely he doesn’t want me to be miserable. The truth is our hearts long for a lovely and happy life. We long for heaven. The Bible doesn’t promise us perfect circumstances here on earth, but it does offer us the opportunity to experience peace and joy as we find our source of strength in God.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in the book of Nehemiah. God’s people had just returned to the Jerusalem and had gathered together to hear the reading of the book of the law of God. As they stood there listening to God’s words, they began weeping. Their hearts moved toward repentance as they opened their hearts to God. Nehemiah encouraged them, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Notice he didn’t say, “When you are strong then you will have joy.” No, it’s the other way around the joy of the Lord is our strength through the ups and downs of life.
As we turn our hearts toward the Lord, His joy can strengthen our hearts. It is not a joy brought on by our circumstances or by people; it is a deeper delight that comes from the Lord. Jesus said, “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”14 Certainly God wants us to experience an overflowing joy; a joy which comes from abiding in him and walking in his ways. Life may not always be happy, but the joy of the Lord can be our strength.
One of the fruits of God’s spirit within us is joy. God is a God of joy and He delights in you. I want to encourage you to seek His joy in your life today. Ask Him to increase the joy in your heart as you thank Him for all He has done for you. May His joy be your strength this week!