Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”Nehemiah 8:10 ESV
If there’s one thing I’ve been learning and applying to my life lately it is that the joy of the Lord is my strength. Joy is not happiness. It is not just an emotion or a passing feeling. Joy is more than happiness. It is not bound by circumstances and happenings. Joy is from within and independent of what is happening. Real joy comes from God because only He can cause us to keep going even when the odds are against us.
Joy is an evidence of the Holy Spirit since it is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). That is, part of those things we begin to experience as a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is joy. Essentially, joy is every believer’s right. Furthermore, joy is important for the effectual spreading of the gospel. Before we can go to people with the gospel, they must have seen it take effect in us as well. How do we preach love when we don’t show it? How do we preach joy when we lack it?
The scripture helps us understand that a crushed spirit dries up the bones but a joyful heart is good medicine (Pro. 17:22). It’s understandable when the prophet Nehemiah declares that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). On your weak days, on your tired days, get strengthened by the joy of the Lord. There are some things that money cannot buy and joy is one of those things. Nevertheless, God in His love fills us with His joy (Gal. 5:22). If you are overburdened or weighed down or tired out by the demands of life, remember that God’s joy is within you and you can draw strength from there. Strength lies in joy.
Taking this from a “more spiritual” angle, the joy of the Lord strengthens us even for our walk with God. Motivational speakers would always tell you to pick that one thing in your life that gives you joy and capitalize on it because then it would make the work easier. Likewise, delighting in the Lord and living in His joy helps us to be stronger in Him. God’s joy strengthens us for the work ahead. Heb 12:2 tells us of all that Jesus endured for the sake of the joy that was set before Him. The joy ahead gave Him hope and strength. Now, we are not looking forward to this joy, it is already dwelling in us. Isolating yourself from God’s joy as a believer would only make the race harder to run. Reading the previous verses for our anchor scripture we would notice that the people of God had just received a hearing of the law. The priest Ezra had just read out the law, translated it, and explained it. The people felt burdened by all they had heard but Nehemiah encouraged them to draw strength from joy…the Lord’s joy. (Nehemiah 8:1-9)
God’s will for us is to rejoice always. We need joy to receive from Him. Isaiah 12:3 tells us that we draw from the wells of salvation with joy. Salvation is found in Jesus alone. This means we can only “draw” from Him with joy. David understood the essence of being joyful before the Lord and we can see from scripture how all of that worked in his favor (Psalm 100). And it’s not burdensome to be joyful before the Lord because He has already filled us up with His joy. When God requires something of us, He gives us the resources to carry that thing out. Jesus told us that He has spoken His words to us so that we may have joy, and the Holy Spirit fills us with joy, so it becomes easy to be in God’s will of constant rejoicing. (John 15:11)
God tells us today that for all our weaknesses and insufficiencies, His joy is our strength, better still, it lies within us.