Intentional Joy

The joy of the Lord is your Strength. - Nehemiah 8:10

Intentional Joy

I was having what I like to call “a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” – (one of my favorite descriptions borrowed from the title of a popular children’s book.)

It was the end of a long day – unresolved issues and emotionally- charged situations had left me exhausted. Walking through a dimly-lit parking lot, all I could think about was how much I wanted to crawl into bed and throw the covers over my head.

Without any warning I suddenly tripped – apparently over my own feet- although I’m insisting uneven pavement was to blame. Twisting an ankle and landing solidly on one knee, I fell . . . in what I imagine was the most uncoordinated maneuver ever accomplished by a human.

A quick glance around assured me that my mishap would NOT be immortalized on YouTube. Thankful there were no witnesses, but too bruised to move, I just sat there as tears of frustration and exhaustion filled my eyes.

As unexpected as it was unwelcome, the following verse went through my mind: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

I love the encouragement captured in this verse but at that moment, my only reaction was: “What does that even mean?” … “How do I find joy right now?”

God answered those questions by reminding me of an event that occurred years earlier. It was the day we discovered that our twin baby girls were profoundly deaf. Our oldest daughter, also profoundly deaf, was five years old and our only son was just two.

That day, even though I surrendered my girls into God’s hands and trusted He would bring good out of our situation, my heart was weary and worn from the pain of ongoing heartache. I simply prayed, “God, I’m willing to accept the fact that these babies are deaf, but please don’t let it hurt as much as it did the first time.”

Life was overwhelming, as you can easily imagine. To decrease our stress, we managed to “trick” our older two children into going to bed at 6:30… and it actually worked . . . for awhile.

One night, after they were asleep, Lee and I were laying on the floor with our baby girls. We marveled at their tiny identical bodies and cute little facial expressions. As we laughed and played with them, Lee suddenly turned to me and said: “Doesn’t it seem like we should be more depressed?”

As a matter of fact – Yes! God immediately revealed that He had answered my prayer and had protected us from feeling the fullest extent of our grief.

Our hearts had just been broken, our uncertain future was full of what ifs.

And yet even though our circumstances hadn’t changed, our hearts were miraculously filled with hope and peace. We weren’t crushed by the burdens of life, instead we were surprised to discover that we felt strengthened as the Lord’s presence filled us with joy.

The joy of the Lord had indeed become our strength. Instead of trying to manufacture joy, we discovered joy in the presence of Christ.

I wonder how much more joy we would experience if we intentionally cast ALL our anxious thoughts into the Lord’s hands and trusted that The Champion of Heaven would keep His Word and take excellent care of us . . . just as He promises in 1 Peter 5:7.

I wonder what would happen if instead of focusing on our troubles, we intentionally looked for joy? What if we refused despair and instead made a faith-choice to believe that we would see the goodness of the Lord even when our heart was breaking?

Would you pause right now and ask the Lord to strengthen you with the joy of His presence and to help you believe with earth-shattering conviction that He is up to something good and that He is accomplishing the impossible on your behalf … right here … right now.