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2 Reasons to Embrace Joy

God had given Nehemiah a huge task: act as governor of the people of Jerusalem and rebuilding the city’s walls. At the conclusion, the scattered exiles were returning to the once desolate place and the book of the Law of Moses, God’s covenant with Israel was discovered.

Nehemiah 8 says they all came together “as one man” to listen to this being read and perhaps unsurprisingly, the people had a mournful response.

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.”  –Nehemiah 8:9-11

I’m sad to say that too many times, my response to God’s word and voice may have nothing to do with what He wants but how I feel it at the moment. These people lamented that they were so far short of the standard and hadn’t known the truth of God’s instruction for a long time. They felt the sting of the inability.

But this was the Lord’s holy day! It wasn’t set aside for mourning but for feasting. Worship, thanks, and praise ought to be our response to His word and voice; but it’s so easy to simply look into ourselves.

Have you ever noticed that many times when people quote this verse, “the joy of the Lord is my strength,” they seem to have anything but joy? It’s sort of like, “My life is falling apart around me and I’m a total mess but I have joy.” Do you though?

A statement of faith is fine, but if you never experience that joy then your faith isn’t producing. Nehemiah and the other leaders’ encouragement to people reminds me:

Joy is a choice.

Before you feel any differently, you have to choose differently.

Grief is real, but choosing joy is more powerful. God’s holiness requires joy. In fact, it’s a third of the recipe for the Kingdom of God–righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17)!

The second thing I see is that…

Joy is a calming influence.

Sometimes we think of joy in the terms of “extreme happiness” or even laughter. It can be expressed that way, but when our souls are grieved, joy calms us. God’s strength touched the people as they followed the instruction to eat and drink and “be still.”

Mourning is a state of agitation and upheaval. You can’t escape it, and your mind, soul, and body get involved. Joy is the same in that your entire being is involved, but the opposite reaction takes place.

Verse 12 says they went away to eat, drink, and celebrate a great festival. If God’s not calling for weeping and mourning, take hold of His joy to celebrate His holiness and worship in Spirit and in truth.

God is the One who decides what time it is and what response is needed–lean into Him and His Spirit. No matter how desperate or grieved you may find yourself, you have access to unending joy.

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

“Joy of the Lord” by Rend Collective

What do you think? Have you ever chosen joy when everything looked like darkness? What is your experience of God’s joy?


  1. I choose joy, every time.
    Blessings, Jason!

    • I truly want to say I choose joy every time, but I’m on my way! Takes a lot of reminding. 🙂 Thanks and blessings to you too, Martha.

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