“for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b
Sometimes I suffer from depression. I’m not making excuses, but with the melancholy temperament, I sometimes cannot shake my feelings of sadness. I know that “happiness is based on happenings, and joy is a fruit of the spirit.” I know that joy can be a choice, and I create in my mind an unreasonable picture of what joy should look like.
In the late 90’s, on one occasion of an extremely low time, I was distraught and overcome with anxiety and depression. I wanted true fruit-filled joy that rose above all circumstance, but I was not able to find it. As I lamented with my dearest friend, her husband, our pastor at the time, came in to see how much longer we would be. My discouragement was not from my circumstances, but that I couldn’t shake how my depression was keeping me from knowing biblical joy!
My pastor and friend were extremely helpful that evening and began turning my thoughts into truths. He reminded me that God made all of us differently. Some people have naturally up-beat temperaments and others, by His design, are more melancholic. He then began to share with me that seeking to know and recognize the joy of the Lord was part of our growth in Christ. He shared many verses that night about God’s command to be glad and rejoice. (Philippians 4:4, 3:1,Psalm. 5:11; Psalm 9:2; Psalm 32:11; Psalm 33:1; Psalm 40:16) and they both encouraged me to begin to write down and memorize verses about joy. He reminded me that joy doesn’t always mean a life free from conflicts, sadness and grief. Even Paul understood that there are days that are less than joy-filled. “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” 2 Corinthians 1:8b and “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” 2 Corinthians 5:2 Even Jesus was troubled in soul and prayed for His Father to rescue Him.
That night my friends prayed that I would recognize the joy of the Lord in the middle of my circumstances. They reminded me of Psalm 56:8-9, that He keeps count of my tears and God is for me! My friends told me to “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14
As I left to drive home, the reception on the radio station was extremely static, but I could hear the faint tones of Twila Paris singing, “The Joy of the Lord will be my strength”. This divine appointment caused joy tears, I sang along with her through those tears and my heart began to be encouraged.
The next morning when I woke up, I realized that I had been hearing that song throughout the night. In my sleeping, He was singing over me. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:3 I was rested and refreshed. I received such a sweet gift of His joy that night. I began to sense the cloud lifting and my head lifted. (Psalm 3:3) He was showing me that He was completing my joy.
The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not falter, I will not faint
He is my Shepherd, I am not afraid
The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord will be my strength
He will uphold me all of my days
I am surrounded by mercy and grace
And the joy of the Lord is my strength
Today, for a while now actually, I am overcome with anxiety and depression. I have prayed. I have read and re-read my “joy” verses. In Christ, I know I am “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Yet, my tears flow constant and without warning. My sleeping is fitful and filled with restless wakefulness from dreams I cannot shake. My thoughts rum wild, even when I take them captive. (2 Cor. 10:5) I have pleaded for rest, I pray for my heart to heal, I have repented of sin, but joy does not come. So I, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14
Jesus could have healed Lazarus when he was still alive. God could have kept Joseph out of prison or at least given an early release. He could have given Abraham a son when he was still a young man. But instead He waited. There was a richer gift in the waiting.
He is not blind to my constant tears, that I have leaned into hopelessness. He is making me wait. He wants to build faith and give me greater hope as I wait.He wants to remind me that this world is not my home. He is not fearful that I am hopeless, because He is my hope.“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 So He comforts me tonight, knowing that even my tears and heavyheartedness are His gift to me for this season. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5
And I remember, when joy came in the morning.