Resting in Joy

Rainbow in Denali National Park. Photo courtesy of Denali National Park.
Rainbow in Denali National Park. Photo courtesy of Denali National Park.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. 1 Chronicles 16:27

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10.

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed 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 15:10-11.

What a beautiful Sunday message this morning by our guest preacher, Ed Germann, Southeast and Great Lakes Regional Field Director of International Students, Inc. His point – the joy of the Lord is our strength. Joy. Joy. Joy. And while listening, I realized how much joy has to do with rest.

I’ve been struggling with joy lately. That fact has popped into my brain at the oddest moments – stubbing my toe on a toy left out, walking through the house with a pile of laundry, or picking my child up at school – again. How is it that simple tasks can feel so burdensome and meaningless?

What’s so beautiful about the joy of the Lord is that it’s more than happiness. It’s greater than our past achievements and our present circumstances. The joy of the Lord reaches back and pulls us forward from the certainty of our future. As Ed Germann emphasized this morning, we find our joy by looking forward at what God will do for us, what he has already done for us that we have not experienced. And that forward-looking joy is in spite of the sufferings we experience in this life. That forward-looking joy gets us through the trials of this life.

Joy is rest – rest from the heaviness that threatens to tackle us at every time we read a negative news story, lose part of our dream, are hurt by a friend or disappointed at work. Joy is rest from the doldrums of routine. Joy is rest from indifference, the flippant “who cares?” attitude that can pervade our hearts, work places, our homes, even our churches.

But joy, like rest, isn’t something we can conjure up in our hearts simply by wishing it present.  The reality of joy, like rest, is that it’s a gift. Rest is given as we come to Jesus. Joy, likewise, comes from being in the presence of Jesus. Thus, David can praise the Lord saying, “Strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” Jesus encouraged his disciples to remain in his love. When we are in Jesus’s love, his joy is in us, and our joy is complete.

So if you’re struggling with joy, like me, I challenge you to:

1. Spend extra time in his dwelling place – as you read his Word, pray, and worship.

2. Look forward. This might be a perspective shift for you. Remind yourself of his promises in his Word – the “yes and amen” promises of Christ. Remind yourself of the eternal realities of heaven.

3. Encourage another person. We live in community and we need to give the gift of joy as much as we need to receive it.

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