Looking for Joy in All the Right Places

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” —Nehemiah 8:10

Men don’t usually think of “joy” as something to strive for, to attain, or even to focus on. Yet the Bible tells us that joy will actually give us strength.

A few years ago a woman with a sensitive spirit and a keen eye for what God is up to pulled me aside to offer this warning: “The battle in your life is against your joy.”

It hit me like a Mack truck.

But of course. Suddenly life made sense. The hassles. The battles. The disappointments. The losses. The resignation. Why hadn’t I seen it before? I mean, I face a lot of different skirmishes day to day, but now the plot, the diabolical plot behind them all came into view. I began to see how the enemy was first trying to take away all joy from my life. Wear me down. Then, weary and thirsty, I would be quite vulnerable to some counterfeit joy. It would start with mild addictions, then build to something worse. Thus he would destroy all that God has done in and through me. It was so obvious. Of course.

Her observation became a revelation and a rescue. The smoke alarm sounding off before the house goes up in flames. For several days the whole world made sense in light of joy. But in the day-to-day grind of the ensuing months, all that clarity slipped away. Completely. Joy as a category seemed . . . irrelevant. Nice but unessential. Like owning a hot tub. And distant too. The hot tub is in Fiji. Wouldn’t it be nice? Ain’t going to happen. Life’s not really about joy. I’ve got all this stuff that has to get done. The mail is stacking up, and I haven’t paid the bills in two months. The Service Engine Soon light came on in the Honda. Joy? Life’s about surviving — and getting a little pleasure. That’s what seemed true.

Really now – how much do you think about joy? Do you see it as essential to your life, something God insists on? …

But joy is the point. I know it is. God says that joy is our strength. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). I think, My strength? I don’t even think of it as my occasional boost. But yes, now that I give it some thought, I can see that when I have felt joy I have felt more alive than at any other time in my life. Pull up a memory of one of your best moments. The day at the beach. Your eighth birthday. Remember how you felt. Now think what life would be like if you felt like that on a regular basis. Maybe that’s what being strengthened by joy feels like. It would be good.

I take up a concordance and begin to read a bit on joy.

“My heart leaps for joy” (Psalm 28:7). When was the last time my heart leapt for joy? I don’t even remember.

“Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound” (Psalm 4:7). I believe David when he says this. I believe God does this. I just can’t say I really know firsthand what he’s talking about.

Drawn from a devotional written by John Eldredge in the NIV Bible for Men.

Do you think of joy as nice but unessential? How does joy in the Lord give you strength?

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