Do not grieve. For the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10b
I have always loved the last part of this verse. There is a children’s song that repeats those nine words over and over. I learned it at a very young age and it’s been on random repeat in my brain every since, along with the McDonald’s jingle for Big Mac’s back in the 80’s.
I have never fully understood this text, though I love it so much. Like with all scripture, my mind is just not yet developed enough to comprehend all the intricacies God meant when He inspired it to be written. But after this last weekend I feel closer to seeing what God means: our strength comes from His joy.
My son, born with spina bifida myelomeningocele, has had his share of obstacles to growth and development in his two years of living. Two weeks ago he had just started rambunctiously, all-or-nothing taking his first independent steps. Two days later we were told he needed another surgery on his left leg and would be in a full leg cast for six to eight weeks, no crawling, no standing, no walking for at least two weeks if not longer.
As the surgery date approached I felt myself giving over to fear: what if something terrible happens and he comes out of surgery totally altered, what if the worst case scenario comes true and he needs a blood transfusion, what if he never tries to walk again. The more ‘what if’s’ I allowed in, the darker my mindset became until I had stressed myself out, no reality necessary.
On the day of the surgery, I was at a playground near the hospital, helping my oldest son get his own pent-up jitters out while we waited for word from my husband that the surgery was done. In the middle of our play time I got a text from my husband telling me that our son was his normal, gregarious self, making the medical staff laugh and eating a ‘spicy’ popsicle. He then sent me a photo of our son, playing on a keyboard we had gotten him especially for this trip and singing a song to the nurses, a huge smile on his face.
The first realization I had was my body completely relaxing for the first time in a week, all the muscles letting go their knots.
The first thought in my head was, ‘The joy of the Lord is my strength.’
As I stayed with my son over the next few days in the hospital and watched his buoyant personality, I realized how God’s joy gives strength. It breaks the ropes of fear, depression, darkness that we can bind ourselves with. It allows light to shine in and out of us. And even when we forget, even when we allow ourselves to sink into a pit, the joy of the Lord is still waiting to strengthen us when we are willing to let it fill us.