Somedays I try so desperately to manage all of the tasks of living that I push out the joy of living.
My mind swirls with the endless responsibilities that come with being a wife, mother, home-owner, ministry worker, friend. . .
And all the while I make sure I paste on a smile to prove to everyone that I am full of joy. Or maybe I am just trying to prove it to myself.
So often it’s as though my outside and inside are experiencing a considerable disconnect. Because underneath the clean house, washed hair, completed tasks, and plastered smile is concealed irritations, guarded insecurities, hushed up disappointment, and a near constant battle to heart-deep believe that God is enough in and through all of it.
But I shrug off this glaring inconsistency in my own life because I see you there too. In fact, I think that’s where most of humanity is dwelling. Shoveling on smiles to cover the ache and failure. Labeling themselves as “fine” and “good” when asked how they are doing as if those words will serve as the patch for their broken day.
And I think to myself, “This is just what you do. Cover up the mess inside. Don’t burden others with your ugly day. Don’t let them see the ache or the undone, or the tired built up inside of you. Show them that you can be strong, you can rise above the chaos, and demands, and endless sea of incomplete.”
That is where we have gone so terribly wrong. Our strength should not be defined by how well we can cope with life. And joy is not a mask that can be thrown on as you run out the door.
When Israel had completed rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem after their exile, Ezra read to them from God’s Word. The Levites were also there helping the people understand what was being read. Nehemiah writes that the people responded by worshipping God and then they all began to weep. And he tells them, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:1-10)
He didn’t say your sufficiency is your strength, and yet so often we succumb to that lie. My strength lies in my ability to do enough. . .be enough.
What if instead we chose to find our strength in His perfect sufficiency and eternal sovereignty?
I think then that all of the joy that we so often pretend to have would be truly felt in the deepest parts of our souls.
Because Christ himself, tells us that in obedience to His Word and abiding in His love we will find that His abounding joy remains in us.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11
As I continue to abide in The One who sustains and upholds me, His abundant joy overflows within me.
And I’ve come to realize that on those days when I don’t feel joy…it’s because I haven’t really chosen it. I have been burying it beneath my own meager efforts to find happiness and completeness in the chaos. But really, isn’t choosing joy all about choosing Jesus? Isn’t finding joy the result of seeing Jesus in and through every bit of life?
Joy in knowing that I am covered by His blood and grace.
Joy in surrendering to God’s desires and purposes for my life.
So when my days are weighed down by hurt and disappointment and exhaustion I fix my eyes not on the storm but on Him who carries me through it, and remember, just as David said in the Psalms, that “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) And accompanying that joy – the joy of my Lord – is my strength.