This past Thursday and Friday were testing days for me where I had midterms and finals in nearly all of my classes. As you could probably guess, this was a stressful time for me, and it was hard to remain focused on what matters and to maintain the balance of striving for greatness and understanding imperfection.
From the very beginning of this stressful period of frantic preparation (about a week and a half ago), it became very clear that I wasn’t going to be able to continue on the way I was going. I was exhausted, depressed, and filled with overwhelming anxiety and fear that I allowed to control me.
Our loving Father had another plan for me than remaining in that dark place, and it started with Him bringing back the memory of a song we used to sing during chapel in seventh and eighth grade.
“The joy of the Lord is my strength! The joy of the Lord is my strength! In the darkness I’ll dance, in the shadows I’ll sing! The joy of the Lord is my strength!”
The words for this song were originally taken from Nehemiah 8:10b, as it says “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I had thought of this song during strenuous and difficult times before, and I would sing these words understanding the meaning to be that my joy in the Lord is my strength.
However, this time when God returned this song to my thoughts, I realized that I had it all wrong! That’s not what the words of this song are saying. Though it can be true that the joy found only in the Lord can be a source of strength and hope in hard times, that’s not what this verse actually expresses.
I had been skimming the words and rather than thinking about what God was trying to tell me, I came up with my own meaning that doesn’t even fit the actual English phraseology!
I had missed the deep and impactful truth that these words held, which is that it’s not my joy that brings me strength ultimately, even if it is joy in the Lord. It is the Lord’s joy, His pleasure, that provides me with strength.
As the Lord taught me this truth and I meditated on it throughout the week, my burden became light. I knew that my hard work and realigning my focus on Him caused Him to be pleased with me, to be joyful that I put on the belt of truth and attacked the Enemy with the sword of the Spirit. This alone gave my the strength to continue that hard work.
Not only the hard work of studying and preparation, but also that hard work of constantly fighting the lies with His Truth.
My Father is pleased with me, He rejoices in this victory! This is divine strength.