One of the most famous phrases in Scripture is a verse in the Old Testament that has become a mantra for many Christians. In Nehemiah 8:10 we encounter the famous phrase: “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
It is an encouraging verse which reminds us that, at the heart of the biblical message, is the promise of joy. But what does this verse in Nehemiah actually mean. How can we declare this verse in our own lives as followers of Jesus in the 21st century?
We can experience joy even in our lowest moments
One of the great things about this verse is its reassurance that God promises us joy even when our circumstances don’t appear to be particularly joyful. So in God, we can know true joy in the good times and the bad. We can experience joy even in our very lowest moments, in the times when we most feel like giving up.
Nehemiah was a man who, along with Ezra, led a move of restoration for the people of Israel after their captivity in Babylon. When the exiles returned to Israel, God raised up Nehemiah to lead His people as they restored Jerusalem, rebuilding the city wall and restoring routines of worship and praise. It’s worth remembering that when we read Nehemiah 8:10, the context was not a particularly happy moment. The Jewish people were struggling to maintain their identity and there was a lot of hard work ahead.
Yet, even in this low moment, Nehemiah preached a message of joy. He declared that joy is possible, even when the circumstances around us aren’t ideal. God still promises joy, through the good times and the bad.
Our joy comes from God and God alone
This verse teaches us that true joy comes from God and God alone. Oftentimes, we can fall into the trap of thinking that we have to manufacture joy in our own strength. Our world is full of self-help books and podcasts that point to the end goal of success, happiness and wealth. We are promised that all of these things are within our grasp if we could only meet a certain list of criteria: find the perfect life partner, eat healthier, work smarter.
The promise of Nehemiah 8:10 is one that liberates us from this pressure of being responsible for happiness and joy. For it says that our joy comes not from our own being nor from our circumstances. Rather, true joy comes from God, and God alone. We have a source of eternal joy, who is our Father God. He promises to always give us joy, even when we don’t have the strength in our own humanity.
Joy comes from God, not from our own strength. As we read in Psalm 32:11, our rejoicing is found solely in God. The Psalmist says “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” This theme continues in the New Testament, as we read in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Time and time again, in the Bible we are reminded that our joy is found solely in God.
How to find joy in the Lord
So, we know that we can experience joy even in our lowest moments. And we understand that our joy comes from God and God alone. But how do we practically find joy in the Lord in our day-to-day lives? Here are a few ideas:
- Ask God. As we read in Hebrews 4:16, as followers of Jesus we can boldly approach God and come to Him with confidence. It says “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” From this verse we see that we can ask God for joy and we can trust that, as our good Father, He will give us all that we need.
- Rest in His joy. Remind yourself each day that true strength is found in the joy of God himself. As we have read in Nehemiah, we are strengthened through resting in the joy that God has Himself. Ask God to reveal this joy to you today and allow God to remind you that you are called to a life of true joy.
- Remember that joy is a fruit. Joy is not something that we need to get from deep within. It is something that God grows in us, as a fruit of our relationship with Him. As we read in Galatians 5:22-23, joy is a fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
The joy of the Lord is my strength
Declare today that your life will be defined by the joy of the Lord. Ask God to show you more deeply what it means to walk in His joy. And allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen you with the joy that only He can bring.
The joy of the Lord can truly be your strength. By recognising that joy can be your portion even in your lowest moments, and by remembering that true joy comes from God and God alone, you can receive God’s gift of joy. It is a gift which God extends to you today.
If you enjoyed reading this article, you may be interested in unpacking ‘3 Biblical Promises For When You’re Feeling Hopeless’.
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