Where is Your Strength?
How many of you are tired and worn out? While the Christmas season is often filled with times of happiness and great memories, it can also be exhausting. The days are getting shorter, and we often have more events added to already busy schedules. This morning I find myself sitting in a car, listening to the rain in the dark as I wait for one of my children to finish a practice. When we begin to focus on all of our circumstances (cold weather, lack of sunlight, things to do, places to be), we can become overwhelmed.
Last week I was pretty tired and worn down as I was reading through Nehemiah, and the Lord encouraged me with this verse:
And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Ezra and the scribes and priests had just read and explained the Word of God to the people. As the people heard God’s Word explained, they realized how far short they had fallen. They realized the seriousness of their sin and were deeply grieved. They had neglected to keep the celebrations or follow the law. Yet even in the context of their failure, Ezra encouraged them to not be overwhelmed with grief but that they should remember that the joy of the Lord is their strength.
When we are overwhelmed with our failures or with all the things we still need to do or accomplish, we need to remember the source of our strength. God’s Word does not point out our weakness and sin so that we can wallow in grief. His Word is meant to show us our overwhelming need for Him. True strength does not come from hard work or determination; it comes from reliance upon the Lord.
Understanding of God’s Word should lead us to grief and repentance, but we should not stay wallowing in grief. Godly grief and repentance should lead us to joy and thanksgiving (2 Corinthians 7.10). It should encourage us and strengthen us to continue to follow Him. The people of Israel did just that: “And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”
Right understanding of God’s Word should ultimately lead us to praise and worship. As you begin to feel overwhelmed this Christmas season, take time to reflect on the birth and life of Jesus Christ. I was worn down and exhausted because I was focused on my circumstances and my own lack of strength. This passage in Nehemiah reminded me of where my joy and strength come from. Take joy in God’s love and forgiveness and let His joy be your strength.