by Carolyn Hope
Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10)
Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes during the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites. Some of the Jews had been allowed to return to Jerusalem, but the city was in disarray and broken down. The walls and gates were diminished to rubble. When Nehemiah received reports of the city’s deteriorated state, he wept at the news. He spent much time mourning and praying to God for Jerusalem. Then he developed a plan, and with the king’s permission and a determined heart, he set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In just 52 days, the walls and gates were restored.
Nehemiah shares the secret to his success when he told the Israelites in Jerusalem, “the joy of the Lord is your strength!” We frequently quote this phrase to loved ones who are down or weary. In order to truly understand this sentence, however, we must first realize the context of what Nehemiah went through. When he heard of Jerusalem’s condition, he was not ‘joyful’; rather, his heart was broken, and he cried for his city. Then, Nehemiah rose up, and throughout the rest of the story, he walked with confidence and encouragement. What caused the transformation? From his declaration mentioned above, it can only be one thing: a joy that comes from the Lord Himself.
Joy is not the same as happiness. Read the book of Nehemiah, and you’ll see that the journey to rebuilding Jerusalem wasn’t an easy or pleasant one. There were many opportunities for Nehemiah to experience all sorts of negative emotions; and most likely, he did. He never let his circumstances or feelings deter him from his work. That is what joy is. It’s the power to overcome the negative emotions you experience and to press forward to do what you know God has called you to do. It is the choice to keep going as if everything is as it should be, so that everything will be what it needs to be. It’s the refusal to be hindered by what other people say, what you think, or how you feel.
Whether or not you feel ‘happy’ is not what determines your joy. You must choose joy, regardless of how you feel. Your joy isn’t based in emotions or circumstances, but in the love of your Father, a love that is always steady. You can have joy in every season, test, or trial, because Jesus is with you, and He will give you His joy.Like what you've read? Receive free email updates from The Voice Online: Subscribe