Joy of the Lord

Louise Essam

I have decided that 2018 will be a year of JOY for me. It’s not a typical resolution, it’s also a scary one to write about because I’m surrounded by colleagues who might hold me to account for this!

At the end of 2017 I was complaining, pessimistic and generally impatient. As many of us do, I had spent the year trying to follow God’s call on my life. I believe that God has told me there are things He would like me to do; people to reach etc., but last year I didn’t seem to be making steps towards those things, and actually felt like I was taking steps back. It was frustrating!

I think to really know joy in 2018 I need to examine what robbed me of joy last year:

  1. My destiny is to be, not do. A wrong understanding of my destiny led me to try and work hard at the wrong things. Something I was taught years ago is that God created humanity to be with Him, in relationship. Which means the ‘destiny’ for all people is to be in relationship with God. That’s all. That’s what Jesus came and died for – to restore us to our original purpose of being in God’s presence. I do believe God invites us to join in His work but ‘doing’ is not the thing to focus on primarily.
  2. Fear is a thief of joy. In my perceived lack of progress in my ‘call’ I questioned who God had made me to be, my ability to hear from Him and the choices I was making. Fear took over – fear of missing the boat, of failing God, fear for how others would see me… I started trying to make things happen by my own efforts. I stopped seeking God’s presence because I had stopped trusting Him.
  3. God’s timing, not my timing. It’s a classic, this, and relates to the above lesson about trusting God. George Lings, former Head of Research at Church Army wisely explained that, to a prophet, everything appears to be ‘now’. This makes sense because God sees all of eternity in one go. When God talks to us about things that will happen it’s important to ask Him about when. Jesus used to use the words ‘soon’ and ‘now’ very differently to how I would use them! I exhausted myself trying to make things happen because I believed God meant I was to do something immediately; but the doors didn’t open. On reflection, it’s likely He was trying to give me hope that it will happen eventually.

At midday prayers in the Wilson Carlile Centre we recently read Isaiah 60:1-6.

What’s great about this passage is that it’s about what God will bring about rather than what Israel accomplishes. It says people will come, riches will be given and people will sing the praise of the Lord; but as the result of the glory of the Lord appearing on Israel, not as a result of their efforts. Reading this gives me such a sense of relief. It’s a reminder that what God says will happen, will happen (sometimes this is accompanied by conditions – but that’s a whole blog post in itself).

Nehemiah 8:10b says “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!

In summary, I lost my joy when I tried to carry the burden of accomplishing God’s purpose on my own shoulders; rather than partnering with Him, I tried to take the reins. For 2018 my challenge is not to use my strength to try and achieve joy, but to let the joy of the Lord be the strength I need to do what is asked of me. Should be easy, right?

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