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Joy and Strength

I have been reflecting on the joy of the LORD.
The Bible says that the joy of the LORD is my strength (Neh 8:10). Jesus said that He wants His joy to be in me and for my joy to be complete (John 15:11). I understand these verses to mean that God cares about my joy, that it is found through relationship with Him and that it is meant to strengthen me.
I have a friend, Carly, who is an intercessory missionary in Istanbul, Turkey. She recently fell while getting off a trolley and broke her pelvis in 3 places. Carly has been in intense pain, has had almost no pain killers and little medical care. But, I’m still getting emails from her proclaiming that Jesus is worthy of all praise and that she is worshiping Him from her bed in Turkey.
I read a letter from another missionary this morning. Her husband died very suddenly last September after a slight fall caused a massive hemorrhage in his brain. She is still grieving, but there was definite joy streaming through her letter as she talked about spending five weeks working in Tel Aviv this summer and her ministry with Jewish students in NYC.
I think of the children that I sponsor in Sudan, Burkina Faso and Uganda and how their faces beam at me from the pictures they send with joyous letters. Their joy seems to lift them up above the difficulty of living in such poverty.
I wonder about Christians living in Egypt and Syria and if joy in God is providing them with courage and strength right now.
I have been thinking about this in the context of my own life too. I am not experiencing physical pain, the grief of loss, poverty or persecution. But, I am experiencing emotional fatigue and stress from wedding planning and moving my office. I am tempted to focus on the negatives in my life and my discomfort rather than the joy that is mine in Christ Jesus and the many generous gifts that He has blessed me with.
I think that God really does mean for His joy to be our strength. Whether our problems are small and related to managing our many blessings well or we are actually suffering physically or emotionally, God wants us to find joy in Him whatever our circumstances. He wants to so fill us with His joy that we are lifted up above our feelings and experiences and we find peace and comfort in our relationship with Him.
So, I am practicing gratitude. I recognize that joy comes more easily when I count the ways that God loves on me today and I want my joy to be full and strong in Him.
Still Counting Gifts:
·         #856: Christine and Michelle make the most beautiful decorations
·         #857: Fresh flowers
·         #858: Enjoying friends at my bridal shower
·         #859: Karyn hosted it at her fabulous new house
·         #860: Having my almost sister-in-law visit for the weekend
·         #861: Almost all of the insurance companies have processed my address change
·         #862: 32 days until I become Mrs. Striker
·         #863: I get to proclaim the power of God’s love and how joy really is possible no matter what

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