Wow. Today’s Bible study took me on a real journey. Far away from my initial reading and then back again. And that’s before I typed a single word. Usually, I type as I go.
My study started with a whisper. Psalm 23 is fairly well known and I have it about 90% memorized. I forget a passage or the order sometimes, but I understand it fairly well. God is my protector and shepherd. He is with me always. But how does Joy tie into it beyond the obvious being joyful in having God as my protector?
Yesterday’s service ended with the song, Trading my Sorrows by Darrell Evans. If you have heard the song, you might guess where this is going, and be partially right. Darrell is trading the sorrows of the world for the Joy of the Lord. And he is blessed “that His joy’s gonna be my strength.” Nice.
The joy of the Lord is my strength. That’s a strong thought. And I pray on it, mull on it and of course, search the internet about it. A lot of clutter (go figure) and two strong results:
- What is the joy of the Lord? By GotQuestions.org
- What Is “the Joy of the Lord” and Where Can I Find It? By desiringGod.org
First, the posting by GotQuestions. The answer is simple right from the start. Knowing God. Having Faith. Being filled with the Holy Spirit. Nothing new or inspirational today. Especially because I understand it better because of previous studies on this blog. But I always try to read the entire article to gain full understanding. A lot of scripture references. But Nehemiah 8:10 has been referenced across multiple sources today, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
My strength comes FROM my joy of the Lord. And my joy comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit. And it starts with faith. Hmmm. The strength allows me to be joyful even it times of trouble, because I know that God is with me always.
GotQuestions speaks of it being our duty to rejoice in the Lord and I don’t quite agree with that. I think duty is the wrong word. It’s more of ‘never forget’ that if you are a Christian, you now have the strength to be joyful even in adversity. Knowing that the war with satan is already won, but the battle still rages. We are in a broken world full of sorrows, we need to remember and make the conscious decision to trade those sorrows for Joy of the Lord. And I think we all forget that entirely too much. The more that we remember to trade, the more the light of the Lord will shine through our actions, the better example we will be to others. A strong foundation.
desiringGod.com takes me in a slightly different direction. Hebrews 12:2 speaks of the Joy set before Jesus Christ while he suffered on the cross. Jesus was looking at consequences of dying on the cross. The salvation for each one of us. He had to suffer. And the Joy He took was knowing that He would resurrect, that He would ascend into heaven and be seated with God, He would leave the Holy Spirit with us. I never really thought about it. It seems wrong to say that Jesus enjoyed being crucified. I don’t think he did. He knew it was necessary, and the Joy is what made it bearable. And when we look at all the sorrows that we experience, knowing that our Joy comes directly from God, can make them bearable.
I have often thought of the martyrs, both in the bible and happening today. About how they went to their death joyfully because of Jesus. I understand that a bit better now. And I now have a new personal Bible verse. John 15:11, “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” This is the same joy that allowed Jesus to endure crucifixion. And now that joy is a part of me. And it will endure forever.
Having learned all that, I re-read Psalm 23 with a new frame of reference. And it has a stronger meaning for me than before. The valley of the shadow of death? God is not with me, He is IN me. He is my shepherd inside and out. And I pray that I can take even just a little sliver of the Joy that He has blessed me with and share it out to the world. May I be a beacon of light, a shining example of your blessings to others. Real tough to think of, because I know I won’t always do it right. But hopefully, I will do it better than before and in the future and better than now.
Now, how to actually share Joy with others? There are so many joys. If you start with the joy of Jesus, then those that need to hear it the most might be turned away. Too much, too fast. What joys do I start with? Do we, as Christians, start with? Definitely food for future thought. I don’t know. Yet. I will pray on it.
Peace and Love to everyone.