I read a devotional thought by Joyce Meyer yesterday that spurred concern for the people of God who might read it without understanding. Now I have sat under Joyce’s teaching for many years and I know her heart was on target, but for someone who may not know the Lord well or be one who will look at the scripture for themselves, this particular devotional fell short of where it needed to be, as I see it.
In this particular devotion from her “Power Thoughts” devotional book on February 10, Joyce is covering a thought from Proverbs 17:22, “A Happy Heart is Good Medicine.” In her thoughts on the subject, she says, “Joy is vital! Nehemiah 8:10 tells us joy is our strength.”
I agree 100% that joy is vital to us, as vital as unconditional love and peace that passes understanding, both of which come from God alone. We will struggle to make it in this life without these: peace, love and joy. But it is not joy that is our strength, it is the joy of the Lord that is our strength.
“Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’” ~ Nehemiah 8:10.
There are many things that can bring us joy: people, relationships, sporting events, hobbies, books, movies, etc. But each of these can also let us down and bring us to much grief. We can feel stronger at the time we are enjoying these, but when some grief comes along, the joy is robbed and strength is gone.
The joy of the Lord transcends all other joy we may have. There are two things I know about the joy of the Lord that makes this a joy beyond understanding and comprehension, just like the peace Jesus leaves us and the love that God is. This joy finds its supply in the very storehouse of God. It is not dependent on anyone or anything but God who freely gives it; therefore no heartache on earth can rob us of it. This joy is not even dependent on my emotional state or my ability to possess it. It is found and received when God is our delight, bringing us to seek after and trust Him first and foremost.
Rejoicing in the Lord comes from knowledge of Him that brings us to trust Him despite the trouble that comes our way in this life. Rejoicing in the Lord comes from the knowledge of His presence that is always with us and for us, and will never leave us or be taken away from us. Rejoicing in the Lord comes when we trust His hand knowing that despite the fires of testing that often come, He has a good plan for us and He is working all things for the good of those who truly love Him and are called by His name, as a bride takes the name of the Bridegroom.
There is a teaching in the religious right today that does promote joy in itself as strength. It has people feigning rejoicing in hope of gaining a little strength, then feeling let down by God when the strength they find is fleeting. The only true joy that will be with us despite any grief and will strengthen us is the joy of the Lord, fully focused on and supplied by a close, trusting, loving relationship with Him that transcends to overcome the world.