Nehemiah 8:10 tells us the Joy of the Lord is our Strength. I've heard this a hundred times and Chris Tomlin sings a song that I love that says this. But until yesterday I never really stopped to think about what this means. The JOY of the Lord is my strength.
The book I'm reading right now brought this to my attention last night as well as giving me an new perspective on the prodigal son story.
But first, let me ask you a question. If you were told that tonight the Lord was going to meet you face to face and pronounce His Judgment on you, what would be your first reaction? What feeling first pops to the surface for you? Joy? Or is it dread?
We are told He will search the deepest parts of our hearts. When you think about Jesus staring into your eyes and seeing the depths of your heart and soul, do you squirm? Do squirm out of excitement or fear?
I know my heart did a dive into the pit of my stomach when I first thought about this question. But that is slowly changing. Why? Because I'm coming to realize I've always seen my God as being sad or mad in the past. I know He is a loving and kind Father who forgives us, but that image of a scowling or disappointed God had not really left my thoughts. So when I thought of facing Him in His throne room I immediately thought of Him examing all the things in my heart that are dark and bad. I thought of Him going over all my failures.
But as I'm reading scripture I'm starting to realize God doesn't sit up there looking down on me with scorn, disappointment or even indifference. He looks down on me with unconditional love and enjoyment! I'm really starting to get this in my heart. When He searches my heart he find at the deepest part of me that little "Yes" that is determined to follow Him and know Him no matter what it costs me. No matter how many times I may fail on the way. And that little teeny itsy bitsy "yes" makes him smile! (And I'm smiling just writing this and thinking about it!)
I've always thought of the tale of the prodigal son as relating to unbelievers. Those who don't know the Lord or you have walked away from the Lord. And this is true. But last night I started to see this story a bit different. It is also a reflection of us who follow Him and fail along the way (and in case you're not up to speed yet - that is ALL of us!). We react the same way as the prodigal. When we get to the point where we finally admit we have failed and can't go it on our own in our own power and strength anymore, we come to Him on our knees and beg for any small position in His Kingdom. We can't imagine doing anything other than laying out all our failures and begging Him to take us back. But you know what He does? He reaches down, wipes away our tears and engulfs us in the biggest bear hug ever! He leaps and shouts for joy because we are there with him. Even when we are at our lowest and weakest, covered in slop from living with the pigs - He looks on us with enjoyment and love. He desires to gaze on us even when we are covered in filth! Wow!
And what should I expect. If I do believe the prodigal story is of someone coming to know Christ for the first time and God shouts for joy and calls for a celebration at that point, wouldn't He do even more so for someone who is sincerely trying to follow Him - even with all our stumbling? Do I really think His love for me cools and dimishes over time?
So last night as I heard the Lord speaking to me again saying "My Joy is your Strength" it took on new meaning for me. I really started to consider what that meant. What is God's Joy!? When I am weak I can know that the Lord is looking down on me with love, desire and joy and that is what will hold me up and carry me through.
Words can't even begin to express the Joy and happiness that fills me with those thoughts. We truly do serve and AMAZING God!
As I've prayed over this upcoming year the Lord has impressed two words upon me. Last year was a year of REVELATION - it was a time when the Lord began to reveal this great love He has for me. He began to open my heart and mind to what this love really looks like and the true nature of it. His true nature! That will continue into 2010.
However, He also impressed upon me the word SUBMISSION. It is time for me to submit to the love the Lord has for me. To finally accept it and realize His word is true. He says He loves me unconditionally and I need to stop trying to put conditions on His love for me. I need to realize there is nothing I need or even can DO to earn His love. He gazes upon me with love and enjoyment in my weakness. I need to understand this and accept it once and for all. I need to gaze upon Him and His beauty instead of on me and how I can be worthy of His love because the bottom line is I'm NOT worthy of His love. But that does not matter to Him one bit. I'm His cherished daughter, the bride of His Son - Period! End of Story!