This verse from Nehemiah has been one of my favorites over the years, but it has also proven to challenge me. When I sit and look at it there is really a lot of meaning in just those few words.
The Amplified Bible says it like this: “The joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” Stronghold literally being fortress. A place where a particular cause is strongly defended and upheld. To put it simply so that even my mom brain can understand. God creates a place through joy for us to reside where he defends us and hold us up.
What is joy? Well looking at it from what I have learned through scripture it is so much more than just being happy. Happiness is an emotion. Joy is a mindset. It is the assurance that God has it all in control. God is working for your good. God is good, and he loves us without end. Joy is also making the choice to praise God through all things, not because things are always going well and I am continually happy, but because He is always present in every situation. He is always with me.
In the assurance that God is a loving God and ever-present we can find our strength. I have realized that it is not who I am that brings me strength, but who God is in me. When His joy is running through me I am a new creation. I am fulfilling His purpose for my life.
I love this version of Psalm 33.
“We’re depending on God; He’s everything we need. What’s more, our hearts brim with joy since we’ve taken for our own His holy name. Love us, God, with all You’ve got – that’s what we’re depending on.” (Psalm 33:20-22 MSG)
When we put our all into God, then we can truly and fully experience His joy. How amazing is that. It gives me chills as I am writing it.
Let’s be honest, there are more than a handful of times that I don’t feel joyful. Things don’t go my way. My kids are in sour moods. My husband did something that irritated me. And there are hundreds of more reasons that I won’t spend time listing, because you get the point. We all have things that take our eyes off God and the joy He has for us. And this is where I mix up my perception of joy and happiness. I can’t be happy all the time, and that is ok. That is life. It doesn’t make me any less of a mom, wife, or woman. But what I can continually have without fail is joy, God’s joy through me. That will be my strength, my place of refuge. That will be what I cling to when all seems to be going wrong. God will get me through. His love covers all and holds me together. And when thing are going well and happiness is emotion that I can easily feel I have all the more reason to be joyful.
So what it all comes to is that God is for me. His joy is in me. Whether happy or sad, up or down, He is constant.