God, My Exceeding Joy
Beautiful Younger Soul,
I’m sure you’ve heard the verse, “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) many times. You’ve heard it preached, sang and quoted and possibly misquoted multiple times, but you keep wondering, what does joy mean? People tell you that you should be joyous in all circumstances but to you “joy” seems foreign. Don’t get me wrong, you understand what it means but can’t grasp the concept. You understand the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is an external, temporary emotion that changes with circumstances. Joy is an inner, permanent state that is contempt regardless of circumstances. Then, why can’t you seem to have joy?
For years, you’ve battled with your mental health. You’ve experienced depression, anxiety, fear, just to name a few. You know that in less than 20 seconds, you can go down a very dark and broken place to the worst-case scenario. For years, you’ve tried to find this “joy” that everyone tells you about. But you keep wondering how? How do you acquire joy? What is authentic joy? What is wrong with you that you can’t find it? For years, you’ve tried to stay positive and find things to help you cope with your mental health issues. You like journaling, listening to Christian music, praying or talking to God, talking to your family and stepping away from the problem to try and find clarity. All those coping mechanisms have been great and have brought peace. However, you knew in your heart that you were still missing joy or at least that is what you thought.
Here is what I’ve learned my Beautiful Younger Soul. God is joy. Puff, mind-blowing revelation, right?
See, as you spend time alone with God, you get to know Him intimately. You began to see aspects of Him that you have never seen before. You marvel every time you discover a new attribute of God. For me it happened one night, not too long ago. I was sitting in my bed reading the book Pray First by Chris Hodges. The author asked to research the names and attributes of God and add those into your prayer life. God likes to hear us worship Him and it allows us to appreciate Him more fully and love all His facets. So, I Googled names and attributes of God and found a lot of resources. I came across “The Bible Recap” resource on the “Names and Attributes of God”. As I was going down the list and writing the names of God that rang dear to my heart, I came across “EXCEEDING JOY – Psalm 43:4, Psalm 16:11”. I took my Bible and read Psalm 43:4 ESV, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.” I was taken back by the words “to God my exceeding joy”. I read the CBS version and it has “to God, my greatest joy”. The Hebrew text describes it as “gladness of my joy”. It was right then that I understood something critical that I have been missing for over 30 years. God is meant to be my joy, my exceeding and greatest joy, the gladness of my joy. I can’t experience joy without knowing the Father and receiving His exceeding joy. This blew my mind away.
Over the next few days, I took my previous journals and began to go over entries where I had experience brokenness and pain. I realized that in those moments, God’s joy was my strength. The problem was that during those moments, I only focused on the brokenness and pain. I was blinded to what God was doing in my life. The more entries I read, the more it was clear how many times He gave me joy and I didn’t see it. It wasn’t all smiles and rainbows but during those broken and painful moments. His joy strengthened me through the love He poured out to me through my family and the people around me. I just didn’t realize it.
You see, God’s joy is always available to us. It’s not like just one day, God decided to become joy. NO! The problem is that we focused on everything else except God. I kept trying to muster up joy and find joy everywhere but I was looking in all the wrong places and doing it in my own. After reading Psalm 43:4, I realized that I’ve been reading Nehemiah 8:10 wrong. “The joy of the LORD is your strength” means that God’s joy, not what I can muster up or what I can find in the world, is my strength. He is joy and once I realized it, I could pinpoint His joy and strength in all those moments when I was broken and in pain.
My dear Younger Soul, you don’t have to look muster up joy or look for it anywhere else. You just need to go focus on your Abba, Father. He is your joy. He is where your true joy, exceeding joy, the greatest joy, the gladness of your joy is found.
Older & Much Wiser You
“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.”
Psalm 43:4 (ESV)