The joy of the Lord will be my strength

Many a day, I lose joy.

Not enough sleep.
Kids that talk back.
Disobedience and discipline.
Bills that need to be paid.
A house that needs to be cleaned.
Laundry that piles up.
Listening to my kids fight.

Disappointment rules the day.
Discouragement sets in.

But I know that joy does not come from my circumstances.
Joy does not come from perfectly obedient children.
Joy does not come from having enough money in the bank.
Joy does not come from having a clean and orderly home.
Although those things might help …

Joy comes from deep within.
Joy comes from being in the presence of the Lord.
Joy comes from remembering all that He has done.
Joy comes from remembering that I am a child of the One true King.

Joy comes when I lay down my life for another.
Joy comes when I sacrifice much, but gain little.
Joy comes in through hardship and grief.

I loved this story from The Insanity of God.

For seventeen years in prison, every morning at daybreak, Dmitri would stand at attention by his bed.  As was his custom, he would face the east, raise his arms in praise to God, and then he would sing a HeartSong to Jesus.  The reaction of the other prisoners was predictable.  Dmitri recounted the laughter, the cursing, the jeers.  The other prisoners banged metal cups against the iron bars in angry protest.  They threw food and sometimes human waste to try to shut him up and extinguish the only true light shining in that dark place every morning at dawn.

Dmitri was threatened with execution.  He was dragged from his cell.  As he was dragged down the corridor in the center of the prison, the strangest thing happened.  Before they reached the door leading to the courtyard – before stepping out into the place of execution – fifteen hundred hardened criminals stood at attention by their beds.  They faced the east and they began to sing.  Dmitri told me that it sounded to him like the greatest choir in all of human history.  Fifteen hundred criminals raised their arms and began to sing the HeartSong that they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning for all those years. 

Dmitri’s jailers instantly released their hold on his arms and stepped away from him in terror.

One of them demanded to know, “Who are you?”  Dmitri straightened his back and stood as tall and as proud as he could.

He responded:  “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His name!”

The guards returned him to his cell.  Sometime later, Dmitri was released and he returned to his family.

May I choose the same joy that Dmitri found.
May I shout with joy, even in my darkest hour.
Joy is an act of the will … one I must choose every hour of every day.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to have that kind of joy!

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, 
shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5-6