Perhaps you remember the childhood song (if you were raised Baptist like I was), The Joy of the Lord is my Strength--a catchy little song meant to be sung enthusiastically. However, as a kid, I didn't grasp the concept. Like other ideas, "His grace is sufficient," the words were tag lines to me as a Christian but their meanings were lost on me.
Sadly, I still struggle with these concepts. I understand more fully what they mean, but my heart takes much longer to flesh it out.
I was reading again in the devotional book, Grace: an invitation to a way of life, and came across these truths regarding our delight in God. Ortberg states that what often keeps us from joy is "a preoccupation with myself and my own little agenda. Joylessness is a serious sin." But it is our strength (Neh. 8:10) and our armor against the weary world. "We have badly underestimated the necessity of joy."
Joy isn't easy, but it's essential to our faith. Without it, our worldly perspective fumbles from the eternal. Without it, our witness to Christ's goodness and power are diminished. Without it, we wait and lose out on life. We can't wait for our circumstances to dictate our emotional response. We must experience joy now, in spite of whatever assaults are coming our way.
I thought the spiritual exercise was practical and meaningful. We must remember that God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Not after he deconstructs all our problems. Not after our lives are "in order." Not after we feel ready.
Here are a few ideas to enjoy life with your gracious Shepherd:
*When you sit down for a meal, imagine your Shepherd preparing the table for you. Slow down, enjoy the gift of food in his presence.
*Plan a celebratory evening with your small group or family--delight in God's goodness together.
*Pursue a favorite activity this week. Try to consciously engage in it with the Lord as your companion.
*Be particularly aware of little joys as you go about your day. (Relational moments, meaningful accomplishments, scenic beauty, laughter).
*When you worship with the body this week, express your joy directly to God for the ordinary and extraordinary ways he has made your "cup overflow."
*When irritations and frustrations arise, resolve in your mind that you will choose joy. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)