I always liked the idea of being a strong woman. Particularly in this day in age, it seems the epitome of the ultimate woman is a strong woman. Very few women I know have not bowed down at the altar of “strong womanhood.” I am included in this group. I chased after strength and independence and chastised myself when I fell short of it. All of what made me a “strong woman” was whatever will I could muster out of myself. It was I that made me “strong” though looking back and looking in to how I still currently fall into this pursuit, all I see is deficiencies. My strength was never quite enough and I often failed me and left myself disheartened.
Rarely did I consider strength for the Christian should come from something, rather Someone, outside of us. That strength came from joy. Not just any joy though: the joy of The Lord. A woman could be strong not from her own striving for self but from her resting in a divine joy.
We were created for joy and gifted strength through it. Like strength, this isn’t a happy state we can muster up. It is a holy mentality that is only manifested by the Holy Spirit.
Joyful in hope
In Nehemiah 8, the author tells of how the Book of the Law was read to the Israelite people and their hearts were turned back to God. After hearing the scripture, the hearts of the people lamented as they knew they were far from God. But Nehemiah encouraged the people in 8:10 saying, “…this is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
I think we in our perverse, finite minds picture God as some stoic old man in thd sky. Yet God is infinitely greater than our minds can conceive and His emotions are greater than we often believe. God is joyful. In The Pleasures of God, John Piper explains that God is pleased in Himself. One of the ways we see this is in Matthew 3:17 when God speaks after Jesus’ baptism saying, “this is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” Since the Father and the Son are one, we see that God finds joy in Himself. He also takes joy in saving us. Hebrews 12:2 states that, “Jesus…because of the joy awaiting him endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” God was willing to send His Son to die and the Son did so willingly because God finds great joy in forgiving our sins and reconciling ourselves to him.
From this we see we have two reasons to find strength through being filled with the joy of God. First, we can be joyful simply because God is who He is. One day we will be filled with the same joy and pleasure that God finds in Himself. When we are in heaven and know Him fully we will be filled with overwhelming joy. But we don’t have to wait for that joy to begin taking root in our lives. Because we are gifted with the very Spirit of God Himself, we can grow to know Him here on this side of heaven as the Spirit reveals Himself to us. I am convinced, the less we focus on ourselves and the more we focus on knowing, deeply and intimately, God, the more joy we will obtain. This joy will be our strength because we can be confident in God simply because we know who He is.
Second, we find joy because it is God’s joy to save us. Nothing makes His heart glad like reconciling those He created to Himself. We can be glad in it because we are freed from the burden of sin and the law. Jesus paid the death penalty we deserved. We can live to be strong disciples of Christ because it was God’s pleasure to forgive us and call us.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Joy in God is the root of a Christian’s strength. Like all of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, we can’t simply create this joy in our lives and expect it to be a gladness and strength that is actually worth its salt. The Spirit is the one who gifts us with knowledge of God and His joy. In Him, we find joy. In Him, joy begins to grow somewhat slowly and steadily in our lives. In Him, we find a strength that is rooted in the rejoicing of God, who He is and what He has done for us.