Updated: May 8, 2021
As I sat in the quiet stillness, listening, I was honestly not expecting to hear anything. My spiritual director - on the other side of the screen (we were meeting remotely) - had asked me to take a moment to listen to what God might be saying to me. She prayed a brief prayer, and we both sat in the silence. And what came to my mind surprised me, and yet it also felt like a deep truth I had known deep within my soul for a long time.
“The joy - of being in the presence - of the Lord is your strength.”
The Spirit simply added a few words to a well known verse that had often been a source of nagging guilt for me, rather than a deep sense of encouragement. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” had just never worked for me. I had memorized the verse long ago, I had “tried” to make it true, but I would be lying if I said that verse had brought joy and comfort to my soul throughout my years of following Christ. The question sometimes nagged at me: Why did it seem to work for others, but not me? Why didn't I experience more joy, more often? I had surrendered my life to Christ at age 19. Certainly by my late 40's, I would have been able to consistently experience an ongoing, abiding joy as a follower of Christ. So why did I not feel joyful most of the time?
I believed God loved me, I had tasted moments of joy in Him before. Those kinds of thoughts swirled in my head periodically, but without an adequate answer. And that’s when the subtle guilt would slip in and remind me there must be something wrong with me, something I was missing, something I was not doing right.
Those few words that changed the emphasis of that verse, spoken by the Spirit to my hungry soul, brought a "lift" to my burdened heart.
“The joy OF BEING IN THE PRESENCE of the Lord is my strength.”
That was the key for me. Those words released freedom over my heart, as I realized that God was affirming what I had always known to be true of my relationship with him.
The joy I experience in the Lord is usually birthed in the times I spend soaking in his intimate presence. And when I haven’t done that for awhile, my inner joy & contentment seem to “leak” out of me through an invisible hole. Which is why I have to – WANT to – keep coming back for more intimacy, more time soaking in his presence.
So for any of you who might be wired similarly, or who are struggling in this difficult season to find strength & joy in the Lord, maybe this will be a refreshing reminder. Being in God’s presence - soaking in that secret place with him - is what feeds our souls, and fuels our joy.