“The joy of the Lord is your strength”
Joy – it’s so powerful yet so easy to forget in our daily routine. Entering a busy season in our lives can leave us feeling like our only option is to put our heads down and muscle through until life gets easier to enjoy. Life becomes a never-ending to-do list of unpleasantries. At the end of the day when we feel drained and spent, we can’t fathom getting up the next day to do it all over again. I lived this way for a long time and can tell you first-hand – it’s no way to live.
About halfway through my doctoral program, I began to realize I was waiting to feel joy – waiting for years. I assumed I would be able to enjoy my life once I began to reach certain milestones. I was waiting to finish this degree, get a full- time job, to be “settled,” and to start a family. But when no joy was coming, I decided I couldn’t wait anymore. After a particularly busy and frustrating day got the best of me, I realized I had been “toughing it out” for too long, and the wear of it was showing. I was getting sick way too often, forgetting important details left and right, and constantly attempting to ward off tension headaches that were becoming a part of my daily routine. I began to wonder if getting this degree would be worth much when it makes me feel like I may need to be checked into a psychiatric facility by the end of it! I had to start enjoying my life now. I had to find the strength to feel joy in the daily grind, or I would implode with the burden of it all. I began to give myself permission to stop dreading my life and to focus more on the present and derive as much joy as I could from that moment.
This decision led to some surprising changes. I found that I was more creative and productive. I was also much less tired by the end of the day. It became clear to me that this was an example of how this joy – the enjoyment of the life God had given me in Him – gave me a renewed strength to not only to bear the burdens of that day, but to do so with creativity and energy. However, when the next day came around, exhaustion and frustration started creeping back in to steal my new-found joy. My brain and body had gotten used to living without joy, and it was natural to go back to that state. But the important thing was that I recognized it. I was aware that this was not the only way to live, and I could choose joy whenever I wanted to. I no longer had to wait on my circumstances to change to experience the joy that God wanted me to have every day.
Whatever burdens you’re carrying today, while they are challenging and sometimes even painful, you can still have the strength to experience the “joy of the Lord.” Without it, we are simply going through the motions, checking off boxes, and counting down the hours to arrive at a destination that will have challenges of its own. Joy doesn’t change the path we must take, but it can change how we walk down the path. It’s the difference between marching or skipping, dragging along or dancing. In other words: it makes all the difference in the world.