Apparently I am not at that point in my life yet.
So bear with me while I wade through some of my own ignorance, and feel free to jump in with a few hearty “amens” just to make me feel better.
For the past several days, the passage, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” has been running through my mind. I’m not even sure I would have been able to tell you the book of the Bible it was found in (It’s Nehemiah 8:10. I looked it up.) but I knew that the Lord was impressing it upon my heart. So I kept saying it to myself throughout the hours. The joy of the Lord, the joy of the Lord…
It wasn’t until tonight as I drove home from a providential meeting with a friend that I started to wonder what it really meant. Why did I keep hearing the words, and what could I learn from meditating on them?
Let me just go ahead and say this has been a season of heartache for many reasons. It’s all across the board, and none of it will change the scope of my life, but it has hurt. Deeply. And my attempts to wrestle through the waters have only provided me with yet another reminder that I am a horrible swimmer. I get my head just enough above water to gasp for air and then instead of moving toward the shore, I float until another wave crashes. There are patterns in my life where I have continually chosen the route that keeps the horizon at a distance, and I can’t say for sure I know why. There’s a part of me that wants to be in the current instead of the safety, I guess.
Whether or not it’s healthy, I tend to stay in the areas of life that make me feel like my legs are moving, even if it’s just to catch a breath here and there and wonder what will come of it all. Because I get a say this way. I get to put effort into it all and feel like I’m calling some of the shots.
But it feels more like drowning than living.
And recently, the Lord has spoken to me in a different way, and He has urged me to move away from how I’ve always done things. He’s been tender with me as He’s called me to Himself in my brokenness. He allowed me to see something I hadn’t seen before, and I can tell you in all sincerity that it has changed me.
I do like to be out where it’s choppy and I’m soaked through with it all. But I don’t think I do it for myself.
Ever since I was a little girl, there was a voice in my head that told me I had to save everyone else, and I’ve listened. I’ve actually believed that I know what’s best (which I don’t) and that I’m capable of rescuing (I’m not).
So that was kind of a rude awakening.
But it’s true.
I put myself in harm’s way many times in my life because I am under the misguided notion that I am the savior, all the while ignoring the facts.
I can’t swim.
How can I save anyone?
The joy of the Lord is your strength.
What does that even mean, Lord?
I have always (forgive me. I told you this was going to happen) read this as saying “The Lord’s joy.” As in, the joy that the Lord possesses. And somehow that was my strength. But I’m not exactly sure how that works out.
As I said, I had a providential meeting tonight, and it blessed me beyond words. Through tears and reminiscing a hard time many years ago, I was reminded of His faithfulness. I was able to see from a perspective I hadn’t had before. We looked back at what seemed to be broken beyond repair and we marveled at what it had become.
And I remembered the words that cut her deep. I had said them, and I meant them. I thought she was wrong. And with tears in her eyes she told me she understood now, and she wished she had heard me then. It wasn’t even a matter of right and wrong, and little things piled up because that’s what life does, and all of a sudden it was a mess that neither of us wanted to try and stack up into meaning.
But here, now, well-
We could see it.
The joy of the Lord is your strength.
It isn’t the joy that belongs to Him-it’s the joy that belongs to us because we believe in Him.
It’s the joy that comes when everything around us rattles and moans because we believe in something unshakeable.
It’s the place we land when we stop believing we know everything of His will and we rest in the safety of grace, knowing He can do what we never could.
It’s the joy that leads us to the place we have been called to be; the shore.
Where our toes are bathed in shallow mercy and our eyes watch far out into the water where He is always saving. It’s where we stood tonight, and it made sense from here-all of it.
It’s where we see Him working and not ourselves. The joy…
And it’s spectacular.
What does strength mean? Does it just mean we get to be really brave and tough? No.
According to the original Greek, the word “strength” (ma’ owz) means “A place of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold.” It means, “A harbour.”
Feeling joy because we trust the One who made the waves is what shelters us from the tossing of the waves. The joy of He alone is our harbour.
I don’t know about you, but that’s good news to me.
And it has become a new commitment of mine to ask myself in every situation; am I trying to save because I think He can’t? Or because He won’t? Or is it just to feel like I did something marvelous?
None of those are the right and godly answers.
The answer that pleases Him, I believe, is the one that simply says, “Lord, I don’t know how You’ll do this, but I know You’ll do it in Your time, and Your way. And that is enough. So I’m going to make my way to the sand, take a few steps back, and watch in wonder as You redeem what I thought was lost.”
Are you being called there with me? To the place of abiding instead of mustering strength? If you are, know I have saved a spot for you right beside me and I welcome you to the place with the most beautiful view this life can offer.
Joy in Him alone-that is the refuge of all.
Come to the shoreline and we’ll all cheer as the waves crash and His will makes it right.
It will all be right.
Thank you, Lord. That is joy unspeakable to my weary soul tonight…