Let me be totally honest for a moment. I don’t experience the joy of the Lord very often.
When the Bible talks about the joy of the Lord being my strength, I have a hard time relating to it.
I think a lot of it has to do with my personality. I struggle with depression and anxiety, both of which make me see the world through grey tinged glasses.
But I want to experience the joy of the Lord, and I’m convinced that God wants me to experience it as well. As David said in Psalm 34:4:
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
David said that God was his exceeding joy. I too, want God to be my exceeding joy. I want the joy of the Lord to be my strength.
Of course, all this raises the question: how can I grow in the joy of the Lord?
What Is The Joy Of The Lord?
Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord is not primarily a feeling of happiness. It’s not some sort of Zen feeling. It’s not the warm fuzzy feeling you get when watching “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross.
In other words, the joy of the Lord isn’t primarily a feeling. If it was, then it would be impossible to experience it in moments of grief or in the depths of trials.
No, the joy of the Lord is much more sturdy and unbreakable.
Ultimately, this joy comes from Jesus himself. I experience the joy of the Lord specifically because I am united to Jesus Christ.
As John Piper says:
The reason your joy can now be as full as it is and moving toward perfect fullness when all our battle with sin is over is because in union with me, the branch in the vine, you no longer enjoy merely your joy. You now have my joy in you and you enjoy what I enjoy as your joy, as you abide in me.
This joy of the Lord is my strength, and it works itself out in very practical ways in my life.
The joy of the Lord is the firm, unshakeable conviction that God loves me, is for 100% for me, and is working everything for my good.
It is the unbendable belief that God is my
It is the rock-solid belief that God is with me, even as I walk through fiery trials and deep waters.
However, all this still leaves me with the critically important question: how do I experience and grow in the joy of the Lord?
The Joy Of The Lord Is My Strength: 5 Methods For Growing In The Joy Of The Lord
If the joy of the Lord comes specifically from Jesus, then it follows that the primary way I grow in the joy of the Lord is by deepening my fellowship with Jesus. In other words, the more closely I am connected to Christ, the more consistently I’ll experience God’s joy.
How do I stay closely connected to Christ?
1. Experience The Joy Of The Lord Through Prayer
Prayer is my lifeline to Jesus. Through prayer, I come to the throne of grace and there I meet Jesus himself. Jesus gives me exactly what I need in every struggle and trial and battle. When I come to the throne of grace, I am filled with the joy of the Lord that is my strength.
As it says in Hebrews 4:16:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
I’m so profoundly grateful that Jesus not only invites me to the throne of grace, but he commands me to come to him. Jesus wants me to experience the true, lasting joy that only he can give. And so he calls me to come running to him.
I love how Paul Miller talks about prayer in his book The Praying Life:
Write out your prayer requests; don’t mindlessly drift through life on the American narcotic of busyness. If you try to seize the day, the day will eventually break you. Seize the corner of his garment and don’t let go until he blesses you. He will reshape the day.
If I want to experience the joy of the Lord that is my strength, I must seize the corner of Jesus’ garment. I must cling to him through prayer, asking him to reshape my day and give me his overwhelming, satisfying joy.
2. Experience The Joy Of The Lord Through God’s Word
Again and again throughout Scripture, God’s word held forth as a primary source of the joy of the Lord. As David says in Psalm 119:14-16:
In the way of your
testimoniesI delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Why did David delight so much in God’s word? Why did he treat it as more valuable than even the greatest of riches? Because in God’s word he met God himself, and when he met God he experienced the sweet joy of the Lord.
It was in and through God’s word that he discovered God has his “exceeding joy”.
If I want to be able to say, “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” then I need to go to the fountain where that joy is found. I need to immerse myself in God’s word. To drink deeply of it and savor the fellowship with God I experience through it.
3. Experience The Joy Of The Lord Through The Holy Spirit
In Ephesians 3:18-19, Paul prays that the Ephesians would:
…have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have the supernatural strength required to comprehend the staggering heights and depths of the love of Christ. He wanted the Ephesians to be filled with ALL the fullness of God.
In other words, he wanted them to experience the joy of the Lord.
How could the Ephesians (and I) know God on such a deep, profound level? How could they possibly comprehend the height and depth and breadth of the love of Christ? How could they be filled with all the fullness of God?
Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one who reveals Christ to us. The Spirit opens our eyes so that we can comprehend the glorious things to which we’ve been called.
And when the Spirit opens our eyes, we truly are filled with the overwhelming joy of the Lord. How can we not be overflowing with joy when we truly understand the great salvation to which we’ve been called? How can we not be bursting with joy when we’re filled with all the fullness of God.
The joy of the Lord is my strength, and I experience that joy through the power of the Holy Spirit. If I want to experience more joy, I simply need to ask the Spirit to reveal more of Christ to me.
4. Experience The Joy Of The Lord By Meditating On The Character of God
Lamentations 3:21-23 says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
How do I experience hope, which is another form of the joy of the Lord? By intentionally calling to mind and meditating upon the character of God. On the flip side, if I don’t call to mind the character of God, I will be sorely lacking hope.
This passage is a beautiful reminder of who God is. He is steadfast and his love never ceases. Every morning he pours out new, fresh mercies that are custom tailored for the day. He is always, 100% faithful in everything he does. There is never a moment when God isn’t faithful to me.
When I call these things to mind, I am filled with hope and the joy of the Lord that is my strength. I am encouraged to keep pressing on in God. I’m reminded that God is 100% on my side and that nothing can ever change that.
5. Experience The Joy Of The Lord By Meditating On The Gospel
In Luke 7:47, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven
Few things create more joy than meditating upon the staggering blessings I’ve received in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Think about it with me for a moment.
- Every one of my sins, past, present, and future has been paid for in full.
- There is no judgment left for me, only mercy.
- I am an adopted son of God and will receive an inheritance from God.
- I have been freed from the power of sin and now have power to obey.
- I call God, “Abba, Father,” and have an intimate relationship with him.
- I am part of God’s forever family and uniquely joined to his people.
- I have life everlasting and will eventually experience the new heavens and new earth.
- And so much more…
In Christ, I have blessing after sacred blessing. The gospel truly is a fountain of joy. When I drink from the fountain of the gospel, I experience the joy of the Lord that is my strength.
It Is Good For Christians To Be Happy
Charles Spurgeon said:
Why should Christians be such
a happypeople? It is good for our God; it gives him honor among men when we are glad. It is good for us; it makes us strong. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). It is good for the ungodly; when they see Christians glad, they long to be believers themselves. It is good for our fellow Christians; it comforts them and tends to cheer them.
I want to honor God by being a happy Christian. When people see me full of the joy of the Lord, it ultimately points them to God, who is the source of all true joy.
The joy of the Lord is my strength, and I want to experience that joy consistently.