If there is one thing I can say about what has gotten me through this past year since Patrick left this world, it is this from Nehemiah 8:10: "The joy of the Lord is my strength." Strength is the quality or state of being strong - well, what is strong? To be strong is to have the power to move heavy weights and/or to withstand great force or pressure. And what is joy? It is delight, great pleasure, happiness. "Of" expresses a relationship or a connection between a part and a whole. When I say the" joy of the Lord" has been my strength, I'm not talking about a crutch that I lean on (that is a support), a cushion when I fall (a soft landing), an insulator (to keep bad things out), or a piece of armor (He does arm us mightily). When I say the "joy of the Lord is my strength" I'm talking about POWER. Defining "is" is hard, but it is a state of active being. This, strength, this power, is of God. It is a happiness that flows like liquid steel into the fiber of my being from the mighty God who created the universe. It is power to be more than an overcomer in Christ.
Over a year ago, my cousin who went to be in glory last week, Monica, and I had a conversation about this. This was before my husband passed, before her daddy passed away. We had both been both challenged and afflicted by those who challenged our beliefs, who came against that joy with a radiating sort of negativity. She told me that she had learned that she was *never* going to let anyone or anything steal her joy. She wasn't going to stifle that joy of the Lord no matter what and joy was like a fountain spewing forth from her. I think everyone she came in contact with it was touched. Her joy was that "joy of the Lord" and she wasn't hiding it from anyone. What a testimony she gave as she walked in that joy. We had some similar challenges and shared some prayers concerns - and in a discussion about those things back in December she reminded me we were "Walking by faith not by sight!" It was a proud moment, indeed, when this woman who shone her light so brightly told me she was proud of me for "pushing ahead even in my grief."
It is one thing to get through the battle unscathed but why settle for merely making it through each day? .Romans 8:37 tells us we are MORE than conquerors. A conqueror prevails, defeats and masters. Just absorb the rest ---
Romans 8:38-39 "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A friend of my cousin's shared this quote from John Piper, "Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have." This past year has seen a lot of weeping and grief, but there have been many reasons to smile and rejoice. When God took Pat home, He did not take His joy from me. If anything, He poured me some more and taught me how to better access it. He taught me how precious every single day is and to embrace this life. So while this is bound to be a difficult week of reflecting on the the anniversary of the loss of my husband, the recent loss of my uncle, and the fresh loss of my cousin full of Sonshine, the Lord has given me blessings to remind me that I am well-cared for. As Monica would say with confidence, they took the glory train. They are in His presence now - but as for us, nothing can separate us from His love.
The joy of the Lord is, indeed, my strength.