A Prayer for the Strength We Need to be Joyful
By Meg Bucher
“Be joyful always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (GLT)
The Bible commands us to “be joyful always,” (1Thessalonians 5:16) but it takes strength to hold onto joy when life threatens to snatch it from our hands. How do we recognize a threat to our joy, employ a strategy to refute it, and come out stronger on the other side of it …still gripping our God-given joy?
Often, we think that Biblical joy should feel like happiness. However, even though “always” encompasses happy times and feelings of bliss, true Christian joy can endure through extreme hardship and pain. Happy feelings aren’t a requirement to be “cheerful no matter what,” as the Message paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:16 reads.
“Be full of joy all of the time,” the New Life Version translates. “Always be joyful,” reads the New Living Translation. “Celebrate always,” the VOICE paraphrases, and“Rejoice always,” the New International Version states. Joy is an emotion of great delight. Praise expresses approval. Worship regards something as sacred. Celebration makes something known! (dictionary.com) Where do we find the strength to rejoice in the middle of trials, frustrations, and heartbreak …sickness, death, and despair …loneliness, fatigue, and unfairness? The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible states that “rejoicing might be associated with praise.”
The strength we need is in Christ. Paul wrote, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV) Paul knew what it meant to suffer. We can look back at this verse and listen to a heart that had been war-torn through a life in service to His Savior. “I know what it is to be in need,” he said, “and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil 4:12 NIV)
Christ made Paul strong. Not in a one-time miraculous way, but with the continued presence of the Holy Spirit, and through Paul’s relationship with Him.
We become strong enough to grip joy as our personal relationship with Christ strengthens. There’s no shortcut to it, or quick fix for it. All we need to be forgiven is to proclaim Him as Savior, but to retain joy in this life, we need Him …all the time.
It’s His grace that provides strength. We cannot cure our sin, but we can look to Him to wipe the slate clean. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,” Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When we walk in faith with Christ daily, we can begin to understand what Paul is talking about, and to recognize trials as growing pains. Our trust in God through the seasons that elude our understanding strengthens. Just as a marathon runner must train diligently over time, we must be all-in for this journey with Jesus in order to catch a glimpse of the wisdom that the pages of His Word contain.
We become stronger, the more we surrender to Him. One verse a day. 5 minutes each morning. Church every Sunday. With every step we take, we get to know Him more. And that makes us strong. He is the strength that allows us to hold onto joy.
A Prayer for Joy and Strength
Praise You for these lessons on strength and joy, and for Paul’s faithful life witness left behind for us to learn from. Father, You command us to be joyful always, but You do not expect us to be able to figure out how to attain or retain that joy ourselves.
You gave Your Son Jesus to light the way a joy-filled life. Through His earthly footsteps, we study the example He left for us to follow. Thank You for Scripture. As 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
All of creation reminds us of You. The beauty of nature and marvel of the changing seasons. The uniqueness in all of us and the diversity in the daily horizon. Surround us with reminders of You often, through nature, the people you place in our lives, and the Bible. May the Holy Spirit help us to understand Your Word, and will for our lives. Bless our hearts with sustaining joy, and the strength to hold onto it no matter what.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Meg Bucher encourages others to seek Him first through her life as a stay-at-home mom and career as a freelance writer, teaching Emoti-moms Weekly Bible Study, and leading the kids' worship teams at her local church. She resides in a small, Northern lake town with her husband of ten years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle. Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, http://sunnyand80.org.
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Originally published Saturday, 14 August 2021.