As part of a calling I sensed this year to step into a brave (oh, this girl has been terrified!) new adventure in encouraging women, I’ve been preparing to lead a group called GraceFit. It’s a local gathering of women to spend an hour dwelling on God’s truth and working our bodies to grow and stretch into that truth – an exploring together of faith and fitness.
This month, we’re doing a Facebook challenge (feel free to click over and join in!) to set our hearts and minds and bodies to learning that truth and living it out in JOY! I realized that what I’m digging into in scripture is something I wanted to share here, too, so here you go. 🙂
As I have been studying some of the things God has to say about us as created human beings, one of the things that jumped out at me was a tiny little reference in Nehemiah that has HUGE implications. In chapter 8 of Nehemiah, he and God’s people have just finished rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem after it had long lain in disrepair, and God’s people had been scattered from each other, losing courage, strength, and identity. After receiving permission to rebuild that wall and becoming the leader who would draw the scattered Israelites back together for the purpose of remembering their identity in God and glorifying Him, Nehemiah celebrates with the people that their recent hard job is completed – they’ve rebuilt the wall! He tells them to go and party – to “enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared,” for “This day is sacred to the Lord your God.” Then He tells them this little tidbit: “Do not grieve, for the JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH!”
If His joy is our strength, that also must mean without His joy we’re pretty weak. This isn’t to say we have to muster up some kind of mystical “feel good” mentality. It’s in studying, in knowing, in obeying, in honoring who He is that we find our identity. It’s in obeying what He asks of us (which, by the way, God empowers us to do with His own strength), that we find freedom and joy. In this case, God’s people had been through an extended time of brokenness, largely due to their own disobedience. They worked long and hard, and they worked as a team. They worked in spite of great opposition, and at great personal risk. But together, they rebuilt the wall around their city, protecting it from invasion and creating a haven for future generations. And when the hard work was done (for the time being), it was time to rejoice! In that rejoicing, they recognized the gifts God had given them, and they found strength for the next season of the journey.
Have you noticed that your “walls” need rebuilding? Is there an area of your life that needs some attention? For me, it’s the body-part – the “me” that needs to “strengthen my feeble arms” and get healthy and strong. Want to seek JOY with me in January? Share here and let’s encourage each other!