This morning I read the swHw devotional app that quoted Nehemiah and reminded me that the joy of the Lord is my strength. While the app had many incredible things to share (thank you Somer!) I needed to take a minute to read that verse, stare at those words, and see what they really mean. I am hoping what God showed me will bless you and maybe help you endure these fiery trials that seem to be multiplying like rabbits.
When we were little it didn't take much to motivate us to do something. I remember, well not really remember - more like heard an audio clip - of me as a two/three year old reciting Mary Mary Quite Contrary. I didn't get through the entire nursery rhyme but at one point I just kept repeating Mary, Mary. My motivation? A cookie. My mom distinctly says, "Say Mary Mary and then I'll give you a cookie." Not to miss a beat I belted out, "Mary, Mary now give me my cookie."
But I would assume that more than the cookie, I wanted to see my mom smile. It's amazing what the admiration of a parent can get a child to do. Even the thought of being mommy's little helper can inspire the most obstinate of the vertically challenged folk. And we can take this another step. If our husband were to vacuum for us and it helped us out tremendously and we responded verbally with words that labeled him as our knight in shining armor, he's likely going to do it again. And if our husband praises our lasagna to everyone he knows, we are not going to mind layering those flimsy noodles one little bit. We all seem to thrive when we have affirmation and encouragement.
So, when we see these words in Nehemiah we have to ask ourselves how can the Lord's joy be my strength?
I don't think we need to look beyond the obvious. From a parent to a child, if we are doing what is pleasing and see them smiling as a result, we're going to keep going because we like the response we are getting. And while we can't see God, we certainly have a keen sense of what is going to bring Him joy or cause Him grief. His joy, and knowing we are having an impact on it, will keep us going to do far greater than we thought we were capable because it will fuel us.
It's easy to focus on the great cloud of witnesses that cheer us on, but we can't forget that the captain of the squad is still our heavenly Father. He's the one choreographing the pyramid we are trying to ascend with the spectacular dismount that leaves the witnesses clapping with tremendous applause. And I'm not just talking about those in heaven looking down, I am including the ones on earth who see what He's managed to accomplish in and through us.
My very favorite movie is Facing the Giants. There is a clip that never fails to inspire me to keep pressing on, especially knowing that God has greater belief in my abilities than I have put in my weaknesses. Even when it feels like we are down to our very last, when we continue to give it our absolute best - even when that looks like millimeters of movement - He is filled with joy over our obedience and desire to glorify Him.
So many of us are facing what feels like a constant uphill battle. And while I don't think putting smiley face emoji's on everything to remind us that we can make God smile is necessary, I am sure we all have something that we can correlate His encouragement with. Let's seek Him to find His direction and realize that when we follow through His joy radiates out and gives us the strength we need to persevere. We must keep pressing forward until we cross through the end zone and see the One who knew we would all along.