(By Rachel Joyce)
A while ago I went to talk with an older Christian man who has counseled me in the past when things have been tough. Recently, I’ve had some losses that have cut deeply. A friend died. One of my best friends is battling cancer. Someone, who I care about and who I used to look up to, has pretty much turned their back on me. So many people we care about carry heavy burdens. And then there’s my daily battle with chronic pain and disability which I cannot escape, no matter what treatments are tried. I know what I’m supposed to do—cast my burdens on Jesus, keep going in His strength, forgive, and love even when love isn’t returned. And I have. Yet, sadness has been like a shadow. Always there. And when I kissed my daughter good-bye, as she was heading off to school, and she said, “Mom, why are you so sad?” I knew I needed to go talk it out and get help because the sadness was soul-deep. So deep that it was more than I could handle on my own.
And, as always, he gave me tools to cope and heal. I knew I needed joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength. And strength is what we need in this battle against the darkness. He defined joy as a feeling based on a commitment to celebrate the good. It resonated with me. We are commanded in Scripture to rejoice—to celebrate the good. I can do that. I can choose to celebrate the good. It’s an act of faith. As I celebrate the good, God works, and I discover joy, that fruit of the Spirit which is life for us.
In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to celebrate the good. Seven times each year, God’s people were to celebrate the seven feasts of Jehovah. He wanted His people to rejoice in Him. He knew how vital joy was to their survival, to their thriving. If we are going to survive, to thrive, we need to know how to cast our burdens at His feet and we need to choose to celebrate the good. We go to Him in prayer and thanksgiving. We share with Him the sadness. He bore our shame, our sin, our darkness. He knows it well. He knows our needs. When we pour it all out before Him, in His presence, He pours in our weary and wounded hearts His love, His peace, His joy. In the light of His presence, we find healing, little by little. As we feed upon His Word and let His love relieve the ache of our souls, we are made whole.
Luke 15 helps us understand the concept of rejoicing. When the woman found her lost silver, she called all of her friends to celebrate with her. When the shepherd finds his lost sheep, he calls his neighbors to rejoice with him. And when the prodigal son returns, his father throws a big party to celebrate the return of his son. And that’s exactly what God does with His angels when sinners repent. He rejoices.
And I want to join with Him in His rejoicing. I want to celebrate the good and not get swallowed up by the sorrow, to push back the darkness by the light of His presence. I want the joy of the Lord to be my strength, to be strong in the Lord and His mighty strength.
When we choose to rejoice in Him, we defy the darkness. We choose to stand strong in His strength. May He help us today to live out the truth of His power within us as we celebrate the good and rejoice in our Lord.