As the current Covid-19 crisis was just getting started and before the stay at home orders were issued, I found myself one afternoon in a half-empty Target department store. It was actually a somewhat eerie experience. The shelves were already being emptied of many essential items. People were moving through the store quickly to secure what they needed. There was no conversation. Everyone seemed to be extremely focused and anxious to get their items and move on.
On this afternoon, even in the silence, I could sense the concern in my fellow shoppers. Panic was being communicated without words. It was easy to tell we were in a place we had never been and that was not a place in which anyone wanted to be. I must admit, in that moment, genuine fear moved into my spirit.
I immediately recognized what was happening to me and began to come against this fear. I began to declare the Word of the Lord and pray for God’s protection and peace. This is an exercise I have repeated a few times since that day and, each time, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit move in close to remind me He had my family and me in the hollow of His hand. This reassurance has been just what the doctor ordered to sustain me in this season.
Times like these remind us how blessed we are to know Jesus and have Him living in our hearts. We go through the storms and experience their wrath but something we cannot fully explain quiets us and gives unexplainable peace. I believe this something is the joy of the Lord.
Unfortunately, many believers seem to be succumbing to their storms. They have not forsaken the Lord, but their lives are far from what we read in the Word they can be. Anxiety and fear are facts for them. Hope is distant and faith is constantly under attack. Not meaning to oversimplify this complicated situation but, if this describes you, I need to ask this question, “have you checked your joy level?” It just might be the answer to this real problem is a fresh encounter with the joy of the Lord.
King David, who was described as a man after God’s own heart, sinned against God. When Nathan the prophet confronted him about his sin, David was broken and genuinely repented. Although he repented, David continued to struggle with the guilt of his action. This whole situation led him to pray a beautiful prayer recorded in Psalm 51. In part of that prayer he cried out to God, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Psalm 51:12). It seems David was aware a missing element in his life at that moment was the joy of the Lord. He knew this was something that had to be reobtained.
This divine gift is available to every believer. It is the Father’s desire it exist in abundance in everyone of His children. It cannot be attained in the world or from any of the world’s pleasures, but it can always be found by taking the following three simple steps:
Look for God. This one is easy! God can always be found in the same place – the praise of His people. (Psalm 22:3) If you want to find God, begin to praise Him. Praise Him when you are hurting. Praise Him when you are lonely. Praise Him when you are tempted. Praise Him in the valley. Praise Him on the mountain. Praise Him when you feel like it and praise Him when you don’t. Even when it requires great sacrifice on your part, give God your praise and discover His presence right then and there. There is just not a chance this will happen – it is a guarantee! God lives in your praise!
Live in His presence. When I praise the Lord, even in my hard times, I become keenly aware of His presence. He moves in close to me and envelopes me in His love. The effect of this experience cannot be articulated or understood by human reasoning but is extremely powerful to those who encounter it.
The key for me is to learn to practice His presence. What I mean is I need to reach the place where coming into His presence is not an occasional action but a true component of my existence. This happens when I make praise an element of my daily life.
There are so many benefits to this “praise/presence” lifestyle but one of the biggest is found in Psalm 16:11 “…In Your presence is fullness of joy…” When I get into the presence of God, I find joy! And do you notice the Psalmist does not say we receive a touch of joy or there is circumstantial joy? He says we find fullness of joy! A whole bunch of joy – more than you will ever need – will always be given to those who learn to live in the presence of the Lord!
Let the gift work in you. God’s gifts are never simply feel-good experiences. He always has a purpose for what He does. This is certainly the case with joy. His purpose is found in Nehemiah 8:10 – “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” You are made strong when His joy is working in your life.
You do not have to be weak. You do not have to be defeated by the blows life sends your way. You may or may not be able to control the circumstances you face but you have been equipped to be an overcomer. You are a winner. God knows it. The devil even knows it. The only one who need convincing is you. You can have strength in your toughest battle – it will always, in every situation, be found in the joy of the Lord.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see our world is in turmoil. These chaotic times are bringing stress and anxiety to people everywhere. The only remedy I know is found in our Lord and in the joy He provides. Somehow, I believe He desires to showcase this joy in these troubled times by its reflection in your life. As those around you watch as you walk through your storm – and even through tears and pain – you exhibit joy that only comes from Him, He gets great glory and you find unspeakable victory. This is the witness that cannot be duplicated in the world and the testimony that brings sinners to repentance.
There is great strength for you today. You will find it in the joy of the Lord. Praise Him. Live everyday in His presence. Let His plan for joy in your life be manifested. Pandemics or any other tool in the enemy’s tool belt will not be a match for you. You are more than a conqueror. You were made for these times. You and Jesus have got this!