The Joy of the Lord

February 2007

Some moments in life stand out in our memories like bright lights in the darkness. One of those times for me was the birth of our son. After five years of waiting and a miscarriage, we were finally in the delivery room, about to grasp the reality of a long awaited child. When the doctor put him on my stomach, my eyes filled with tears and I exclaimed, “Look what I did!” It was a moment of pure joy. I experienced another joyous moment when our daughter was born two and a half years later.

As every good thing comes from God (James 1:17), I know both my children and my joy came from him. I also know my joy was only an infinitesimally small fraction of the joy God himself feels (I speak in human terms) when a child is born or a sinner comes to repentance. Joy is part of who God is and as much a part of his character as love.

Joy doesn’t depend on the circumstances in our lives. It comes from a relationship with the Lord. He gives us his joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Our connection to him and the intimacy we experience provide the conduit for the fruit of the Spirit.

Jesus was a man of joy and as we surrender the self to God, we follow in his footsteps. Oswald Chambers said, “The joy of Jesus was His absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice to His Father— the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.”

Sometimes our feelings get in the way of the joy of the Lord. We have down times and get discouraged. We can’t change our feelings, but someone once said: “Our feelings follow our thoughts like baby ducks follow their mother.” If we can direct our minds to right thoughts – think of what God has done for us and who he is – our feelings will follow. We can choose to praise God and find joy in the sacrifice of praise he finds so pleasing.

David showed us the way in Psalm 143. Feeling overwhelmed and distressed (v. 4), he took time to think about the Lord (v. 5). He remembered God’s loving kindness, trustworthiness and guidance (v. 8); his protection and goodness (vv. 9-10); his righteousness and mercy (vv. 11-12). As David meditated on God, his feelings began to follow his thoughts. He became joyful in spite of his feelings.

David faced many troubles in his life, but it seems he turned to God in those times, letting his thoughts dwell on God and his goodness. The psalms reflect both his distress and his joyful praise.

Nehemiah 8:10 says the joy of the Lord is our strength. When we praise God, we receive his joy as he blesses us with the fruit of the Spirit. He lets us share part of his nature, strengthens us and bolsters our faith. His joy becomes our joy and his strength becomes our strength. Let the joy of the Lord burst forth like a fountain in your soul!

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