The Joy of the Lord is My Strength

Days are made up of many ordinary moments, pieced together with some bigger ones. These days add up to weeks. Weeks add up to months; months add up to years. And years eventually add up to a whole life. One thing I am so interested in, is understanding and applying God’s word to these ordinary moments each day.

Often, I think we have our theology sorted (or at least, considered) on the bigger, hot topic issues. But I wonder how often we think about applying God’s word to the smaller, every day moments… things like doing the dishes, sharing a meal together as a family, catching up with friends and gardening.

I am fascinated by how relevant God’s word, the Bible, is to moments like these. Though I shouldn’t be surprised by this, often I am. This is one thing that continues to draw me into deeper study of the Bible – I want to know more of God and his thoughts.

One of the times we really need to know and apply God’s word is when life is hard.

Now, there is big hard, and there is small hard.

And I’m convinced that if we don’t faithfully and prayerfully apply God’s word to the small hard things, we won’t be able to when the big hard things come along.

Something my husband and I often say to each other, in moments of stress, failure or fear, is “Do it in God’s strength”. We are reminding each other that what might feel hard, painful or even impossible on our own, can be done with God’s strength. We are calling each other to prayer and reliance on God. We are pointing each other back to the only Source of power that will actually help the situation.

Since having kids, I have found these small moments of difficulty have increased (or perhaps I have just noticed them more). One Bible verse I have frequently quoted to myself over the years is the second half of Nehemiah 8:10 (paraphrased):

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

I use it as half prayer, half preaching to myself.

This simple phrase reminds me that it is the joy of being loved by God that motivates me to keep going. And it is the joy God gives me that is my strength.

But I realised recently that I’d never really considered the original context of this verse in the Bible.

Here is the full verse:

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The context: The third lot of exiles have just returned, and following a 6 hour reading of Scripture, the exiles start to weep. They were weeping as they heard the law because they fully grasped their own failings before God, and the failings of the Israelites before them.

Have you ever felt this way before? Been so overcome with grief because you realised just how much you have failed God?

Then Nehemiah’s words will comfort you too:

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Your strength does not come from your own inherent goodness. It does not come from how well you can stick to God’s rules (you can’t!). It doesn’t even come from daily prayer and Bible reading times.

Your strength comes from God alone, and the joy that is found in him alone.

When life is hard, whether in the big things or the small things, we should get our eyes off ourselves and onto God.

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