"The joy of the Lord is our Strength"
There are many words that speak of the spirit of Jesus, but this is one that stands out the most for me because it’s what helped me get through some of the darkest seasons of my life.
I have called upon scriptures of joy to get me from one moment to another, but first I had to understand what this truly meant for me. I surrendered my life to Jesus in every area of my life, but I was not recognizing the blessings I was gaining along the way. When we know in our hearts we are doing the right thing, it may not match up with how we are feeling in the midst of it.
For me, it was just that. I was doing what I thought God asked me to do. My life had fallen apart and the promises I was given had not come to pass. In fact, the more I trusted and pressed in, the worst my situation became in every area of my life. I learned to be grateful and appreciate the changes God had been doing in me and I worked on not complaining and let God be God. What I didn’t realize was I wasn’t happy.
There was no joy in my life. I lost everything, yet I was still trusting and waiting on the Lord to fix my life. I knew not to depend on what it looked like, but I still was struggling as I was waiting. Many trials I had to go through were difficult and I had to go through it by myself. I had no one who understood the call I had, and to talk to anyone about it was like talking to people from a foreign land, but they knew me. They didn’t understand a thing I was trying to explain. Whether they understood the concept of trusting God or not, how my life was seen in front of others and the ongoing struggles I endured made no sense to anyone. I realized it was falling on deaf ears so I stopped trying to explain it. The more I tried, the bigger the gap. I had less than a handful of people I could talk to about what was going on, but after a while it just gets old. How could I keep talking about the same thing, over and over with no resolve? Sometimes I’d get a breakthrough when I was open to hearing what God may be trying to tell me. But my frustration would often override the message, leaving me frustrated. Sometimes, no, a lot of the time I didn’t like what the message to me would be because it meant more change. I was done with going through hoops and I wanted the blessed life now, only to realize I still had to wait on the Lord for the promises.
One would think this would cause me to give up and run. Well, to tell the truth, I wanted to. But God believed in me and kept after me. He wouldn’t leave me alone. He would show me the lesson in these situations and I would grow more in my understanding of how things worked in the spirit. We are not to trust what is seen, but trust what is unseen. Believe what He has said and trust it shall happen as he said. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1
This was something that took me years to understand. And just because I finally understood, still didn’t make my life easier.
I remember sitting in my prayer closet one night talking to Jesus. I was telling him all my woes and reminding him I have been doing all these things in obedience to him because I loved him. I rambled on and on and then I heard him say in my spirit, “You aren’t happy.” It stopped my conversation suddenly and I said, “what?” He repeated it.
He went on to say, “you aren’t joyful. You need to have a joyful heart.”
“I need to be happy, have a joyful heart? You’ve got to be kidding. After everything you put me through you want me to be Happy about it?”
I sat in the closet, on the floor, stunned. A long moment of quiet set in the room. Then the thought came to me; I didn’t want to be happy. I didn’t know I felt that way until he told me I needed to be happy. I hit the ceiling. I took in a deep breath and I said to the Lord, “I already do appreciate everything and I am thankful.” I really was thankful for all he’d done to change me, including all the trials that got me through. Pain, lots of heartaches, tears too many to count and I was still thankful because I am a better person. I worked hard to get to that point and also keeping a good attitude, knowing what everyone thought I was a fool, I still stood on God’s word.
I was extremely upset. I thought it was so unfair of him to ask that of me. Why wasn’t that enough? Why was there always more? I cried and said, to my surprise, "I don’t want to be happy. There’s no joy in this. I don’t want to go that far, I don’t want to!" I just didn’t want to be… that. It was too much. I could put on the smile at work, check my attitude at the door, and be kind to the challenging and difficult, but to be happy, no. I wanted no part of it. It was not what I wanted to add to the resume of my painful journey. No. I wanted to keep that to myself. I wasn’t depressed, it’s just I didn’t want to be a doe-eyed fool, which is what I deeply felt inside. I wanted to keep a sense of what I thought was my own personal power. I didn’t yell at the Lord. I just kept asking why, and telling him I don’t want to be happy. I don’t want that. I couldn’t do it. I’d be a fraud.
Why wasn’t it enough to accept God’s ways and be thankful? Why couldn’t it be enough to accept it and know God is going to change things as He promised and wait on him? Why wasn’t that okay? Why did he want me to do more? Man, I didn’t think I had anything left in me. I had been in ‘acceptable’ mode for so long to just deal with it all; let it be and no longer fighting and resisting. I learned to believe God was in control and that one day it will all turn around. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I was still trusting God to do more than I could ever hope or want. That was a long road in itself, but I got through.
I obeyed as much as I understood to do. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I did it with a good attitude. I worked hard, prayed, read, and studied, everything I knew to do to show faith in God’s promises to me. But, to add in all this, be happy? I was crushed. I didn’t think I could do it. And I was surprised I didn’t want to be happy. What a shock that was. I mean, who says that? Most people say, “I just want to be happy.” Not me. I said no, I don’t want to be happy. I didn’t want to say in essence, ‘that this is okay and I am not affected by all this’ would be a lie. It was painful! Every step I took to make the changes God required of me was painful. I got over it, learned and grew from it, but extremely painful. I am forever grateful, but there was a cost and I couldn’t say I was happy because of it. I had no sign of any of his promises. Not one and I had accepted that that’s all part of growing your faith. I was finally okay with that. Now he wanted me to be happy. I couldn’t and didn’t want to.
I sat quietly for what seemed an hour of dead silence. I didn’t expect the Lord to speak to me at that time. He knew I had to digest what had taken place and he was giving me that time.After I had finally quieted down, I said okay, but I’d need help. I needed the Holy Spirit to help me. I knew this was not something I could do overnight. The next morning was a new start. I began to focus, study and pray about what is joy and why is it important to our character. I had to first repent of my attitude and surrender that he knows what’s best for me. I had to allow the Holy Spirit to teach me something vital, for every believer if we are to have victory, we need a joyful heart.
The Bible says we are to come to Jesus with our problems. We are to cast our cares. We are to give it to him and let him handle it and then walk away knowing he will take care of it. We are not to wear the face of sadness. We are to be filled with the joy of the Lord because he is taking care of us and all of our needs, just trust that. If we can trust him then we need not have to concern ourselves with the problem. He has it and he will take care of it. If we just trust him, he will do what we cannot do. That is worth a happy dance.
When the Lord said I wasn’t happy and I need to have a joyful heart, I had to ask myself why. But the truth is, it was the Holy Spirit that brought it to my attention.
We need to persevere! To be rooted and grounded in this kind of joy, knowing all things will work out for our good is fantastic. To know each trial we go through makes us stronger and better equipped for the purpose we are called to do is awesome to me. Nothing is wasted. Somehow, some way it will all work out.
Everything, I mean everything we go through, every tear that’s shed, every loss we have endured will be used for something greater. We shall receive more than we ever hoped for and it will be better than what was lost or stolen. But we need to have the faith grounding to do so. To develop our faith is work. To stay in the fight to win, we must keep the right mindset of a joyful heart so we always remember where our strength comes from.
If I lose my joy and start feeling down or discouraged, I know I have taken my focus off of the one who fills me up. Ii means I have looked at the problem, the offense and not Jesus. When I get my focus back on my source, Jesus, that problem has lost its size. Jesus is my joy and my strength who is bigger than the giant who tries to take my joy. When we are down, the enemy creeps in and throws in discouragement and doubt. When that happens we feel defeated. That is why we fill ourselves up with the joy of the Lord, not just happiness in a moment that is fleeting because it can’t sustain you in hard times. A consistent joyful heart gives you the strength to keep going, keep standing, keep believing and keep trusting.
This says it all, in James 1:2,3 it states, “Count it all joy when you face trials because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”