The holiday season is a time of rejoicing and celebrating, many students are excited about going back home, being off from school, getting together with family and friends, etc. Nonetheless, there are also others who are going through pain due to the loss of a loved one, loneliness, or perhaps a sickness. Recently, I studied a familiar verse in Nehemiah 8 that’s been challenging me to find joy and strength in my Heavenly Father regardless of the circumstances around.
“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength”
I believe the majority of Christians has heard this Nehemiah verse countless times, but have we ever truly understood the significance? Because if we did, a lot of our brokenness, depression, discouragement, and the like would have been nonexistent. This is the way I have always understood Ne 8:10b: God has ‘joy’ (though I don’t know what that means) and as a result, I am uplifted or encouraged by this fact. Yes, it’s a superficial explanation and no wonder I never fully applied this verse in my life. Not too long ago, the Holy Spirit spoke this verse to me at a moment I was feeling discouraged and I decided to really study this verse in depth. Here is how the literal Hebrew version puts it:
“…exhilaration-of Yahweh she stronghold-of·you”
Now, this latter version sheds more light to the meaning of Nehemiah 8:10 than the former. ‘Exhilaration’ is far away from being just simple ‘joy,’ it’s defined as ‘the feeling of lively and cheerful joy, be filled with sublime emotion’ (Thefreedictionary.com). This means that our Heavenly Father is so much filled with immense and inexpressible joy towards us; why? Because we are His! Here are some supporting verses:
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more—Isaiah 65:19
Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as His bride…Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride—Isaiah 62:4-5
In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!—Luke 15:7
I wish I can see what that big smile looks like on God’s face! Maybe His smile is similar to that of a mother looking at or playing with her baby. This is what the Lord feels towards us. The second part of Ne 8:10b talks about ‘stronghold’ which is much more than ‘strength’. A stronghold is a ‘fortified place, a fortress’ (Thefreedictionary.com); in ancient times, a stronghold or fortress was built to protect a city against the attack of the enemy. If we make sense of this verse, we therefore understand that God’s extreme delight and joy should serve as a fortress about us; a fortress to protect us against the deceits or attacks of the enemy. A child that grows up in a happy and peaceful home will only radiate these emotions in school and the surroundings. And even if that child goes through difficult times, he’ll be able to make it through thanks to the strong support at home. The same applies to us, we have a strong and mighty Father on our side who loves us and rejoices over us more than what we could ever imagine. This should be an encouragement to our soul, knowing that whatever is happening now God, our Father who has amazing joy for us, knows what He is doing and has great plans for us.
Unfortunately, the devil has succeeded in making us think that God hates us, plays with our destiny, or is ignorant. As a result, when we go through trials and sufferings, we are left fending for ourselves and immerse in discouragement, depression, etc. If we want to possess joy and strength independent of circumstances or the holiday season, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit will give us the faith and trust in God’s tremendous love and joy irrespective of our conditions. Our Father is on the throne and knows what He is doing and why He’s allowed certain things. Only the Holy Spirit will be that stronghold to shield us from the flaming arrows of doubt, fear, impatience, and defeat that Satan is shooting at us. Here are some questions to ponder over:
Am I TOTALLY convinced that my Heavenly Father amazingly loves and rejoices over me? If yes, then why can’t I COMPLETELY love Him by trusting and submitting to His Word?