Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the Law. Then Ezra said to them, “Go, eat the rich festival food, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be worried, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and your stronghold.”
I am sure that we all have heard that the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is a confession we can make to lift us up and move us forward, but it can seem rather abstract. In order to better understand what it means for God’s joy to be our strength, it will help to understand what it means to feel weak. Weakness is what tells us that we are incapable. It is rooted in doubt, worry and fear. Weakness simply tells us that we cannot when we are trying to figure out how we can. Weakness magnifies that which stands in our way and makes it seem insurmountable. Weakness tells us that we are not strong enough to make it through whatever we are facing. When we say that the joy of the Lord is our strength, we are saying that the joy of the Lord counteracts all of these ideas.
If you try to exercise doubt or fear at the same time you are experiencing joy, you will fail. Joy combats all of the negative thoughts that make us think we are too weak to prevail. What we are looking at is a battle between a state of mind and spirit that God desires we have constantly and the opposing state that the enemy wants to use to oppress us. When we say the joy of the Lord is our strength what we really mean is that God’s joy within us is so great that we can only be strong. His joy drowns out all of the discouraging messages that try to keep us feeling weak and make us ineffective. The joy of the Lord tells us that we can then shows us that it is true. This is empowerment. God’s joy does not simply make us smile or giggle, but it makes us strong enough to endure all things. God’s joy is the force that pushes us to the place where we stand in confession that we are more than conquerors.
We can say this another way. We can say that those who are joyful will remain powerful. Harnessing the joy of the Lord means harnessing strength in the face of opposition. It means walking in power when we otherwise would lower our heads and simply give in. The joy of the Lord is perseverance unto victory. When we are faced with circumstances that make us feel weak, we need not try to be strong. All we need is to step into God’s joy and allow that to empower us. We cannot feel fear and doubt when we are filled with the joy of the Lord. Father, thank You that You impart your joy to us, and remind us to rest in that place when we feel weak.