Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the. Joy of the Lord is our strength.”
“You’re taking the joy out of the journey!” My roommate half jokingly and half seriously exclaimed hours into our drive from Chicago to the East Coast. I had this annoying-to-her-rule: no stopping unless it’s for gas. I wanted to get to my hometown as fast as we could. She wanted to see the sights and quirky pit stops along the way. Hence her take on my joyless journey. I was hyper-focused on the end goal, and she was hyper-focused on the experience of getting there.
It’s a funny story that we laughed about for the years following. But it’s also a rather appropriate metaphor for our lives of faith. Neither my roommate nor I were “right.” We simply had two different views. When I consider both views, I’m very much convinced that we need both in order to live a life in the Spirit that overflows with joy.
When we have the end game in mind, we can’t help but sense a great deal of joy. For those that have chosen to follow Jesus, we will be with Him in eternity, where there is only beauty and good—no tears, destruction, or sorrow anymore.
When we take the time to see the sights and “quirky pit stops” along the way, we are led by the Holy Spirit to see just what God is up to this side of eternity. We can’t help but sense a great deal of joy here too, because we see glimpses of Heaven on earth this way.
And this joy produces a strength in us that we cannot manifest on our own. In today’s Scripture, the Israelites had a profound sense of their sin nature in light of their loving and Holy God. And yet, Nehemiah knew that the joy of the Lord, His delight in His children, would produce in them a strength that cannot be known apart from Him. A strength that we have access to today through the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each follower of Jesus.
I see this as the same strength revealed in Proverbs 31 when it says, “She laughs at the days to come.” She isn’t laughing out of naivete, she is laughing because she knows that the joy of the Lord is her strength as she journeys through this life. She has seen it in the past, and she will see it in the future.
Our journeys twist and turn and bend and climb steep inclines and descend steep downhills. But the joy set before us is His joy that we can partake in this side of Heaven as we wait for the day we see Him face to face. There is joy in the journey, both here and now and in the end.
Spend time in the presence of God today. This kind of joy cannot be mustered up by our own strength, we need the Holy Spirit to do the work within us.
Try the PRAY acronym from Rooted:
- Praise: spend time acknowledging all He has done and thanking Him for it;
- Repent: acknowledge anything you need forgiveness for;
- Ask: share your needs with God;
- Yield: surrender control of all of it to Him and spend some time listening for His leading.