I’ve been thinking a lot recently on this idea of joy. As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety (and still do), this idea can be sticky. It can be hard when life throws curveballs and doesn’t go the way we wish it always would. For a long time, it was hard to go on, my head was telling me to just quit. I have been in a season that hasn’t gone the way I planned with regards to ministry. I was wanting to be in a full-time position and there was a moment that looked good, then it passed, I didn’t get chosen. It was tough. It was hard to have joy. The thing that really helped me was focusing not on the bad, or the disappointment, but the joy in the things in my life. I got engaged and its’ been such a fun season. I have a family support system that has been vital. I have people in ministry outside of my situation that have encouraged me and spurred me on. I just got back from a camp, leading fourth and fifth grade boys, being able to speak life into them and pray over them. I have unlocked strength because I have learned that joy in the lord is what gives strength.
I was reading through Nehemiah and this idea of joy being our strength became very real. Nehemiah was the guy who rebuilt a wall to protect God’s people. After a season of hardship, Nehemiah says this in 8:10, “Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This is so powerful! We are not created to live in fear or sadness, our great God wants us to have joy in him, because that joy is the source for the most powerful strength you can have. Today I want to share two simple ideas on how you can have joy. I know you are going through some junk, it might even feel like you are walking through hell; the truth is, we are not called to be a hell blazer but a child of the most-high God. You are worthy of love and it’s time to have joy.
Stop listening to garbage.
Anything that contradicts what scripture says about you is a lie from the pit of hell. Stop listening to hell-speak. In my small group of fourth and fifth graders Sunday morning, we wrote down on note cards some tough things we were going through. We didn’t read them out loud, but I read them as I taped it onto cups. I then set up a pyramid with the cups and pointed out that these are our fear and struggles. I then pulled out a bean bag and talked about how the disciples went through struggles, but God was with them in all of it, so they were confident in the face of their fears. I then said we are going to do some therapy really quick, then turned and threw the bag as hard as possible at the pyramid. It exploded. The eyes of every boy grew ten times bigger. It was glorious.
Each boy got a chance to “destroy” their fears and struggles, knowing that with God, all things are possible. I share this because it’s time to fight back. We can often sit in our sadness, but the truth is, we have a God who destroyed sin and death on the cross. That same power lives in you. It’s times to stop listening to garbage. Do not accept anything as truth that contradicts who God says you are.
Start a party.
Parties are awesome. Whether it’s a birthday party or a couple of friends hanging out, party’s breath joy. Why? Because when we aren’t thinking about the things we need to check off our list, or the many things that need to get done over the next week or month. We love party’s because they are a celebration of something important to our lives. A birthday of a loved one, a chance to grow closer to friends over food and drinks, or a wedding celebrating two becoming one; God wants to start a party with you. We need to focus on God the way we focus on someone who is having a celebration. We need to be focused on God, focused on the things he has given us now and where he has brought us from. Each of us are sinners, no sin greater than another, all sin is bad. We have all screwed up, but we have a God that decided to send his son in order to die for our sins and rise again to have a relationship with us. Start a party. Celebrate the good that God has done in your life, and the past he has redeemed you from. Start to cling to the hope that Jesus brought to you, personally, in your life. Start a party.
You might have thought this would be an in-depth look at the human condition about how to truly be joyful, but I want you to know that this is the most important thing we can have in our lives. Cut out the lies and remember the way we have been redeemed. We don’t deserve the redemptive power of Jesus, yet he died for each of us, despite our mistakes and sin. Remember that in the midst of your pain, you can have the strength to stand against whatever comes your way; simply live in the joy of the gospel, enjoy the power of the cross, and remember the purpose behind the empty grave.
In all things, have joy, because that is where the strength of the Lord is found.