I looked down the row at the tops of heads covered by the dark of the theater. Like bookends we held little ones in, keeping them from wandering in the aisle, holding them tight to our chests when the scenes were too intense for their impressionable minds. I caught Matt’s eye as Caleb formed a ball in his lap while I secured Chloe in mine, Hannah Grace nestled in the next seat, and my tummy grew warm with the liquor of joy. It was a simple moment, but the moment filled me, and the taste of contentment lingered on my lips for the rest of the evening.
Five days later, I was empty. A toddler bed was my undoing, and more than anything, all I wanted in the next moment was sleep. Sleep to bring stillness. Sleep to refresh. Sleep to wipe away the yesterdays of this week. I found irony in the situation that, during the week when I was supposed to contemplate the spiritual significance of joy, I felt anything but.
And I had to ask the question, where does it go? The Bible states that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy, but so often I allow my circumstances, normally trivial, to dictate whether or not I bite into that fruit. I allow my own mind to deceive me into believing that my insecurities are reality, and slowly the joy evaporates from within.
But I wanted to reclaim my joy, and I scanned the Scriptures for any reference to the word, hoping to glean some insight as to how to scatter the dark cloud from overhead. I found some of what I expected and already knew: Experiencing the Lord produces indescribable joy.
As the exiles gathered to hear Ezra read the Word of God, they began to weep for they finally understood what they were hearing. Yet Nehemiah tells them, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, New International Version, 2010). And they rejoiced.
Tasting the beauty of the Lord, understanding His law which in turns magnifies the sheer gift of His grace will produce joy. I have known this joy, but continually living in this state of awareness seems impossible. How do I rejoice in the LORD when the disobedience of my children has worn me thin? How do I rejoice in the LORD when I feel like a failure? How do I rejoice in the LORD when I feel ashamed to utter His name?
And as I scanned further, God’s Word began to illuminate answers to this question. Verse after verse tied righteousness to joy:
“Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:11).
“The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing” (Proverbs 10:28).
“Evildoers are snared by their own sin, but the righteous shout for joy and are glad” (Proverbs 29:6).
Perhaps my joy eluded me because I failed to live righteously. As I lost my temper with my children, control over my words, I lost my grip on joy. As I gave in to the fatigue that told me I was incompetent, I gave in to the sin that would have me rely on my own strength.
Perhaps Nehemiah’s words, spoken directly to a people celebrating the completion of the Wall of Jerusalem, are spoken directly to me, as well.
Jennifer–the joy of the LORD is your strength.
When your children defy you, the joy of the LORD is your strength.
When your husband disappoints you, the joy of the LORD is your strength.
When your coworker cheats you, the joy of the LORD is your strength.
When your friend deserts you, the joy of the LORD is your strength.
In His kindness, He has made known His expectations, and He has given us the strength to uphold them if we will so choose. And when we don’t, He has given us a net of grace to keep the fall from breaking us beyond repair.
And that truth is my joy. And that truth is my strength.
And that truth is stronger than any cloud that hangs over my head.
So I will claim it as I sigh a prayer of gratitude before I drift off to sleep, trusting that His strength will be waiting for me in the morning, holding the promise of a new joy.
Now it’s your turn! What did you learn about joy this week? Leave a comment below, or add a link to your blog post (not to your webpage but the actual URL of the post). Include a link back to my site, or grab the html code below for my button so others can join the conversation.
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11 thoughts on “Reclaiming My Joy”
Jennifer, this is such a thorough, analytical review of joy, of how it evaporates and how we can bring it back through God. I particularly like your conclusion — that joy is connected to righteousness. I don't think I've ever thought of it that way before. You go deep here, friend — I like it!
BTW: my reflection on joy isn't Biblical…hope that's okay! Next week perhaps I'll ruminate on your word as it relates to scripture (I think that's your intention — sorry I dropped the ball on that one!),
Michelle, your post is perfect! Thank you so much for linking up with me and supporting this new venture. 😉 I just want us to explore themes that will draw us closer to God; not every post will lend itself necessarily to digging into scripture, so however you explore the theme is fine with me!________________________________________
Jennifer, oh my goodness you are so gifted with the words that can flow from your heart. This is so beautiful –my cup overflows. The picture you paint with the net of grace is something we can all carry in our heart. Thank you for these precious words. My heart is filled with joy.
I'm glad you enjoyed it–I'm just thankful my thoughts were coherent because I struggled with this one.________________________________________
I came over from reading at Graceful, and I am so glad I did.
Joy, I know, only comes from God — there is no place else to get that word — that particular feeling than from God.
"Joyful, joyful, we adore thee."
That's what I'm thinking.
Glad I stopped by.
Well done. I think you hit on it when you used the word "choose." We choose to be obedient, in that obedience we use the faith designed by Him and find a joy within that is difficult to describe. Although if anyone can pull it off, that would be you. Very nicely put together, your passion is inspiring.
Oh, I don't know about that, but thanks for the vote of confidence. I write about the faith I aspire to live, but I am very, very far from that goal.
I found you through Michelle and realized what I had written for today is all about joy — finding joy even in the unexpected. Where He guides, He provides.
I love the net of grace! When I choose my way instead of truth and righteousness, that net is there to catch me, to lure me back to the One who loves me more than any other.
Yes, I noticed that your post for Friday tied in perfectly with the theme on my blog, and I'm glad you shared! I especially loved the story of your mother. I hope you'll come back and share again! Have a great week.
Thanks Jennifer for this. Nehemiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible and it was so obv;ious that Nehemiah was inspired to rebuild the walls by the Lord. He didn't set off one his own but waited until
God told him to do so.. "The joy of the Lord is our strength." What a powerful statement for anyone
who wants to please the Lord. It is so obvious pleasing God is in the fore front of your life. I am so proud of you.