“The joy of the Lord is my strength” is a phrase we often hear, but what does it mean, really?
Ever feel like your strength is running out? I have. Some days, it’s all too easy to evaluate my current level of strength and measure it against the days ahead. I wonder how I am going to make it through that day, let alone all the days in the future.
Where does the phrase “the joy of the Lord is my strength” come from? In Nehemiah 8, Ezra the scribe reads the words of God’s law to the people. They stand in reverence for hours as God’s word is read, and as they understand it, begin weeping.
For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
When we feel sorrow – whether it be realization of sin or because of difficult circumstances – we often wonder where our strength is going to come from. But it is vital to remember: the joy of the Lord is my strength.
One of the toughest “flesh” mentalities to break when we are striving for spiritual transformation is basing our abilities on how we feel. We tend to think in boxes, equations, and ways we as humans can understand. But God is over and above all those things. Only He knows what we are truly capable of in His power. But many days, the words of Light the Fire feel all too true, “My spirit is willing, but my flesh is so weak!”
Recently, we traveled 16+ hours for Thanksgiving and a ministry tryout. Already tired and with two toddlers in tow, I got food poisoning on the way home. It. Was. Bad. I’ll spare you the details. It was all we could do to make it home, and I didn’t move out of bed the rest of the day.
The next morning, I awoke feeling so much better! I got it in my mind that I had to catch up on everything I couldn’t do while I was sick – laundry, cleaning, etc. My sweet (and wise) husband tried to tell me to slow down, that I had just been horribly sick the previous day. I said nah, I was fine. That is, until that evening.
When I get overly tired, it’s easy for me to let my mind go in circles and not be able to sleep. Such was the case last night. I got to sleep super late, and all day I’ve been paying for pushing myself yesterday. Is it just me, or are spiritual battles harder to fight when you’re tired?
I want to share an excerpt from my prayer journal today.
I am told by You [God] to rejoice despite my circumstances, not be anxious, bring every thought into captivity to Christ, etc. You wouldn’t tell me to do it if it was impossible. Why do I find it so much harder when I’m tired? I know Satan came to tempt Jesus when He was physically weak. Jesus answered him by quoting Scripture….
This [spiritual struggle] seems to happen when I am exhausted. Since I feel weak, I question whether I have the ability to win the victory. I have temptations on good days too, but they don’t affect me as much because I feel physically strong.
What is God teaching me here? I think He would say, “Mary, taking care of your body is important too. It is a temple of my Spirit. If you keep it strong, it will help you stay on guard against the enemy. In the days you are exhausted, find your rest in Me. When Satan comes at you with a lie, answer him back with Scripture and know that the truth will set you free, even if you don’t feel it. Your faith will see you through, because you will be relying on My unlimited strength, not your own. If you feel weak, know that my grace is enough and my power will cover it all.”
So what is the key to overcoming temptation when I am physically drained? Realizing that God is my strength in weakness & that the joy of the Lord is my strength.
But it left me wondering, “What does this really mean? How do I let God be my strength when I’m weak?”
I’m still trying to figure it out. But here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Meditate on Scripture.
Don’t just say the words – think about what they mean. Go deeper. Keep a specific verse in mind for the day and dwell on it. For example, think, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” whenever you struggle or face temptation.
Look for God everywhere.
Count all the gifts He’s given you, all day long. Try to find him in the ordinary. The more I focus on God, the more I will realize He is worthy of my trust and able to take care of it all.
Isaiah 26:3 is one of my favorite Scriptures: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
Every time you face a difficulty, ask God how you should deal with it. Keep a conversation with Him going all day long. Talk to Him about how you’re feeling. He’ll help you face it!
I used to get so annoyed when I would hear this term, because I didn’t know how to implement it. I’m still learning. But today I found this really cool “definition” of letting go by Suzie Eller:
Letting go is giving up what is beyond your control to embrace what you can change.
She goes on to say, “We can’t control the words that once shaped our hearts, but we can replace them with truth from Scripture.” Wow. Read the full article here.
There are certain things in life that cannot be changed, no matter how hard you try. In these situations, we must remember 1 Peter 5:6-7 “…humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Cast these cares on Him in prayer, and do your best to leave it with Him.
After that, do what you can. This totally reminds me of the popular “Serenity Prayer.”
This leads me to the last point…
Do the next thing.
Whatever part of your life you can control and change, purpose to do something about it. In my case, it’s being more proactive in taking care of myself. I can go to bed earlier, eat more healthy foods, and exercise more – these will all help strengthen my physical temple for those future spiritual battles that are to come! “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
The key when I am physically, mentally, or emotionally drained? The joy of the Lord is my strength – even when I feel weak or sad. I’m still learning what that means.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
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