“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”
ROSCOMMON, MI – This song chorus by Rend Collective is a powerful and challenging confession. It feels good to say it, but it can be difficult to flesh out. James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Seriously? I should be full of joy when circumstances come against me? My joy should increase as pressures mount? This sounds completely crazy and counterintuitive. My self-nature is not wired this way! Joy is a spiritual response grounded in faith. One of my favorite sayings is, “People make choices and choices make people.” Choosing joy is a great example of this. When you choose joy in the face of struggle you are choosing hope, faith, and strength. You are choosing reliance on Christ and His power and protection instead of your own. You are choosing to see with His eyes and perspective instead of your own dimly lit eyesight.
By choosing joy you are allowing Christ to form you more and more into His image! When we choose fear we are saying “yes” to depression, discouragement, anxiety, apprehension, unbelief, disobedience and on and on. This usually means we made a choice to react out of selfishness and pride. We chose a fleshly reaction grounded in unbelief. Unbelief is a virus capable major life-changing damage.
There have been times in my life when unbelief crept in, and began to wreak havoc on my belief system (God’s Word) and my relationship with Christ. Questions began to play on repeat in my mind - if God really cares, why is this happening? - Is this all there is? - I’ve given my life to you God and this is my reward? Sound familiar?
Do you hear a theme in this whining? Selfishness. Me, me, me! Nevertheless, God has always been gracious to forgive my sinful selfishness and remind me of His faithfulness even in the middle of my faithlessness. I have discovered when I reflect on the joy of my salvation, the joy of my calling, the joy of kingdom ministry, the joy of marriage and family, the joy of friends and the faithfulness of God, unbelief disappears, the virus is destroyed. My heart changes, my faith enlarges and I can face any circumstance because the “joy of the Lord is my strength!’
On a final thought, I have also discovered joy is contagious. Visible joy in difficult times will always provoke questions from those around us. How can you be so optimistic? Why aren’t you a basket case right now? How can you keep going?
The answer is simple - “I choose joy!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mick Schatz serves on the staff of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. He is the State Director of Spiritual Enrichment and Retreats and lives at Bambi Lake.