Joy: Reflecting on Scripture

» Posted by on Jan 5, 2014 in reflecting on scripture | 0 comments

Joy: Reflecting on Scripture

Have you ever anticipated an event with great excitement? Did you put a huge amount of preparation into getting ready for this event?  And when it was over, were you disappointed that it ended? Did you feel sad after it was over? Was it hard to get back into your regular routine?

Recently, I had the opportunity to go out with a friend and participate in a social activity. Representing an extremely rare opportunity for me and desiring to make the most of it, I threw myself into preparation because, in my opinion, planning always increases the enjoyment of any event.

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My new outfit!

My preparations included:

  • getting my nails done
  • having my hair highlighted
  • finding just the right outfit to wear
  • thinking of a special gift for my friend
  • packing the charger for my phone

The event was all that I could have expected it to be and then some. We had a delightful dinner, enjoyed marvelous conversation, the gift was well received, and the preparations enriched the experience.

My only regret was that it ended.

Even though I knew it would!

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The accompanying jacket!

Finding it hard to pick myself up the next day, I mused on this cycle we go through as human beings:

 — making extravagant preparations          
— expending so much energy               
— knowing it will end                     
— being disappointed                             
— and wanting it to last forever                 

God knows we do not need to put ourselves through so much turmoil. He specifically tells us which days to celebrate, and what our feelings should be in regards to them. Returning from Babylon, the Jews found the book of the Law and learned how God wanted the festivals to be kept. They assembled before the Water Gate to hear Ezra read.

The people were weeping because they understood that they had not kept the feasts as the Lord commanded, but Nehemiah told them not to weep because it was the festival of Yom Teruah, that is, the Feast of Trumpets, which is typically referred to as Rosh Hashanah. Here is the passage in its context:

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Enjoying a glass of wine with my dinner at Sun Bird Lodge, Lake Elementaita, Kenya, February, 2013.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.   –Nehemiah 8:9-12

Notice the famous passage, from which many a familiar song is written:

THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH.

What a minute! The people were mourning! How could they switch so suddenly to rejoicing?”

That is the very reason why God commands us regarding our emotions; it is so easy for us to change how we feel in a particular situation. In this case, He wanted them to rejoice because they had found the Book of the Law, came to understand what it meant, and desired to fulfill it. So, they should rejoice!

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Seder Plate at Passover, March 2013.

Knowing that God desires our emotions to be involved when celebrating His festivals puts our lives in perspective. He understands that we have emotions and directs them to an appropriate release. We can look forward with anticipation to the next holy day He desires us to celebrate while we work through the mundane tasks of everyday life thinking about the last festival we shared with Him.

God desires us to remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength no matter what we are doing. Remembering this story and its application helped me to center myself again and return to my ordinary schedule as well as gratitude because…

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Lilac bush in bloom outside my home, April 2013.

I am thankful for:

  • a makeover
  • a new outfit
  • the encouragement of a friend
  • the strengthening of a friendship
  • the opportunity to give a gift

Collectively, what I gained was certainly worth the effort. Temporarily, I experienced a letdown after the flurry of the preparations accompanying the anticipation of the event. Reflecting on scripture assisted me to return to those elements in my life that sustain me on an everyday basis, such as joy, and assisted me in returning to that place of gratitude where I normally live.

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