Lately, I've been struggling off and on with my joy. I am typically a very genuinely happy person. Slow to anger, I would say. Although, for some reason lately it's been the little things that have tempted my spirit to anger.
If my morning doesn't start the way I think it should or my children are not getting ready as quickly as I'd like, or people are not helping the way I think they should be... the list goes on and on. I have just been in a negative FUNK. My motto has always been "I'd rather arrive a little late with joy than on time with anger in our hearts." I don't know where that motto has gone, maybe the worry of peoples expectations?
For whatever reason it is, rest assured... I have done my best to fix it.
Did you get that? I have done my best...
Uh, huh... I.
This morning, after starting the day off "The Perfect Christian Way" Reading my Bible and Praying for my day, husband, children, people and situations all the while giving thanks to God... the struggle began... again.
"Why is this happening, I have given it to you over and over again, I pleaded with the Lord." "Why is my spirit so quick to anger?" "Why is my heart not full of grace?" Well, now I was even more upset because I had blown it again. Oh, no I didn't go off on my family and start yelling, ranting and raving. I was angry in my heart. The place only God can see. And to be honest, my face probably reflected that as well.
After sitting still for just a moment to stew in my anger and self pity, I simply heard the widely used phrase "The joy of the Lord is my strength." Well. I had to stop what I was doing and go read about it. Thinking, OK, OK, I've used that passage many times. I am going to re - freshen up on it's meaning.
Found in Nehemiah 8:10 let me quickly paraphrase it for you:
The people have gathered to hear Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses. All people, men, women and children. When the people saw the book, they rose to their feet. Then Ezra praised the Lord and all the people started to praise God saying "Amen!" "Amen!" They lifted their hands to the heavens, they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to ground. He begins to read in the early morning and finished around noon. All of the people paid close attention to the Book.
After the reading, Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, "Don't weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God." Nehemiah continued, "Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
... So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and celebrate with great joy because they had heard God's words and understood them.
For the lack of better words: Holy Moly!
The scripture I have often used for gaining strength from my struggles should have been giving me strength because of the knowledge I have in the Hope of God.
Does that make any sense? Of course, the joy of the Lord is my strength and I can't do anything apart from him. That is all well and good. But when you look at it in this light, it brings me joy because I have learned and understand through the teaching of his Holy Spirit how to obtain joy and peace.
I have been given grace, something these people were only hoping and longing for. They had been promised a day when their savior would come and they would receive the gifts. SO, at this moment they were praising the goodness of the LAW of GOD. Praising his faithfulness. Praising the fact that they were a chosen nation. A nation chosen to have direction from the most high God.
How terrible of me, a simple Gentile to take such things for granted. "I have crossed all my T's and dotted all of my I's by doing all of my "Christian things" this morning, God, where are you?"
It brings me back to what God was teaching me earlier this week in 1 Peter 2:2-3
"You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation. Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness."
So here I go again... picking myself up off of the floor, dusting off my worn clothes, trying again. Craving his spiritual milk and crying out for nourishment. Asking him, yet again, to teach, rebuke and train me in righteousness. So that I can continue to grow into the fullness of my salvation.
A life long growing pain.
Yes, the joy of the Lord is my strength. I can do nothing.