I love these things called emoticons. They make life so easy. Somehow they always have the right picture that represents my emotions; sometimes I think they know how to express my emotions better than I do. The things even have a sign for clapping, hi five, soon there will be no need for words, emoticons will rule. Oh how I wish!
So my journey with the book of Nehemiah continues. Today if I could use any emoticons to represent what I learnt it would be that face that looks dazzled, an alama ya mshangao! Today I was not sure reading the book of Nehemiah would be a good idea, I felt it would talk about rebuilding walls, but would somehow miss to speak to the specific place I was in. But the word of God always manages to surprise me; somehow even in the strangest places, we get a very specific word for the moment.
My word for the day is from this verse: Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
It is a word that God prepared me for through an email I got from a friend earlier today, saying the exact same thing that the Lord’s gift to you and me is the joy of the Lord; a joy that is not determined by the present circumstances, but by that I know God. Someone recently put it very well; that despite the circumstances we may be in, hard and all, we know how it ends. It ends with us being victorious, so we have joy coz we know He is working it out for our good. It is an ‘I know better smile’; I know how this ends, and devil you lose! It is a joy that only comes from knowing God period.
…despite the circumstances
Sometimes this joy is not easy to come along. In this season God has spoken to me about 2 people who knew just how hard the joy of Lord can be. One such man was Job.
A confession first, I don’t like the book of Job. Dude goes through a lot! Every important thing to him is taken away including his children! Yet that is not what makes this my least favorite book, it is the response of Job to all these circumstances “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance….” Who says that in the midst of his life being so thick? Who chooses the joy of the Lord over the mourning and sulking that he so deserves? Who does that?
But perhaps the story that has tagged my heart has been the 3 musketeers, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego. I have known strongly this is the Word of God in my season. These guys are being threatened to be thrown into a blazing furnace. Blazing furnace! Okay I feel like that is an out there statement so perhaps allow me to repeat it, a BLAZING FURNACE. That in my head reads unfathomable heat! Okay this might seem like an out there impossible thing, afterall we leave in modern day, no king will be sending us to any furnace right? Let us then replace this furnace with the thick circumstances in our lives. You have lost a husband and it feels all hopeless, how can you be a widow at such a young age? You have failed an exam that was bound to determine the next many years of your life. Your father has walked away from your family, notwithstanding that he was the breadwinner. You are jobless, have been for a while. Okay you get it now, life is thick.
Not what I deserve
Worse still, these 3 musketeers had been good guys from the word go. The book of Daniel starts with them determining that they will not defile their body with foods and drinks. These guys have set themselves up to serve God for the word go. So that they are even in a blazing furnace is well kinda unfair?
I find that many times when we are ‘good’ we feel life owes us more than the blazing furnace; heck God owes us, right? I was listening to someone share about how they got married young, married a Christian guy, they did not have sex till after they were married; God was at the centre of their relationship; all the writings of a good story. However, married and years later they could not have kids. The many attempts to get kids had taken away joy from their marriage. Oh did I say these are Christians who have even lived the values? So at some point they both gave up on the marriage, gave up on God and all that goes with it. The lady started having an affair with another married man, a Christian she adds. She was hell bent to punish this Lord who had not kept His side of the bargain. Does He not say delight yourself in Him and He will grant you the desires of your heart? So what happened to her desire to have kids?
Yes, now that’s a description of where Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego were. They had been faithful but here they were in a blazing fire anyway.
But these guys response to this threat truly challenges me “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”…Those words have a way of tagging at my heart. The kind of love for God that it takes to say these words in the midst of the fires, the devotion, the faith; the joy of the Lord was their strength.
Do not grieve
Perhaps this is what Nehemiah is talking about when he tells the Israelites; do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength. A joy that will face the furnaces of my life and be left standing. A joy that says that the God I serve is able to deliver me from anything, and He will….but even if He does not, I want you to know that I am sold out to His will.
So today the Lord is specifically telling me, do not grief Kenyan, the joy of the Lord is your strength. He is saying the same thing to you, do not grief that lost job, the joy of the Lord is your strength; do not grief that lost husband, the joy of the Lord is your strength; do not grief that relationship that did not work out, the joy of the Lord is yours. Why you may ask? Because this one thing still remains, He will work it out for your good.
The stories of Daniel and Job and many others in the bible do not end with the above statements; they end with an end that only God could have written. He is still writing my story. That He tags my heart so specifically today tells me “It’s not over, it’s not finished, when God is in it…..” I choose the joy of the Lord! A joy that even emoticons cannot express.