You may have heard the Bible verse, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) – but what is the “joy of the Lord”? And how can you be more joyful when you feel discouraged, confused, tired, doubtful, or angry?
My three tips for experiencing more joy in life are inspired by none other than the Lord Himself. I also share my own ways to be more joyful, and weave my ideas with Moses’ experience of God on Mount Sinai. I wonder if Moses felt the “joy of the Lord” when God summoned him to to top of the mountain? If I were Moses, I’d feel terrified, overwhelmed and awed by God’s power and thunder. But after God left the mountain I believe Moses knew how to be more joyful in all aspects of his life — whether or not he was in the Lord’s presence.
Becoming more joyful in daily life — especially if your responsibilities are crushing, your relationships broken, your life mundane or boring — doesn’t mean being happy because your dreams have come true. Joy is a deeper, more meaningful experience of peace, wholeness, beauty and life. Perhaps the best description is the Jewish word shalom.
Before we dive into my tips for experiencing the joy of the Lord, read these these words of beauty and wisdom from a woman mystic called Gabrielle Bossis:
“Hold out your two weak arms to me: I will help you,” says our Heavenly Father. “We will do the work together, bearing unequal burdens. It is for the Father to shoulder the heavier end of things. As long as the small child gazes fondly into the Father’s eyes, the painful task will not seem so bad. What power for you, what joy for Me!”
Notice who is receiving joy when you meet God’s gaze. God. You receive power, strength, hope and love…and yes, joy, too. But you give your Heavenly Father joy when you simply meet His gaze and let Him take your burdens. You give God joy by trusting and looking at Him. When you meet His gaze you also receive more strength, power, peace and shalom than you could ever imagine or create on your own.
3 Tips for Being More Joyful
This blog post is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project; I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture. I started with Genesis — beginning with The Reason You Were Created – Genesis 1 and ended that series with How to Live Like You Really Are Forgiven and Free – Genesis 50.
Exodus 19 does not say “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” And yet, I see those words all over Moses’ experience of God when he (Moses) made three trips up and down the mountain.
1. Read Exodus 19 slowly and carefully
Look, see, experience how mighty, powerful, awesome and holy the Lord is! “Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke because the Lord came down on it in fire. Its some went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him in the thunder.” – Exodus 19:18-19. Yahweh is so holy, powerful, mighty, strong and real that the mountains shake, the trumpets sound, and the smoke envelopes His presence! God is so powerful that the Israelites couldn’t see Him face-to-face, for they would surely die.
Immerse yourself in the sight, sound, feel, smell and taste of God’s power. Take five minutes of total silence, and read how God appeared to Moses and the Israelites. Listen to the trumpet getting louder and louder. Hear God’s voice in the thunder. Smell the thick smoke of the furnace. Feel the mountain shake beneath your feet! Ask God to give you a taste of His powerful presence. Ask Him to reveal what it was like for Moses and the Israelites to experience just a little glimpse of His glory. Learn what it means to have a deeper relationship with God, and you will learn how to be more joyful in your life.
2. Keep going up and down the mountain to meet God
Exodus 19 tells us that Moses made three trips up and down the mountain. He was the Israelites’ prophet, the intercessor between them and the Lord. He and Aaron shared God’s laws, distributed God’s wisdom, and brought God’s word to the people. Moses had to do the hard work of climbing up and down the mountain three times, and it was worth every step. Moses kept returning to God’s presence. Moses talked, listened, and bravely walked forward in faith. Moses may have felt scared, doubtful, tired, confused, overwhelmed, uncertain and even frustrated…and yet he kept going up and down the mountain. Moses worked hard to meet and talk to God — and he didn’t do it so that he could feel more joy in his life! He did it because God asked him to.
How do you pursue the “joy of the Lord” in your life? You are not Moses, and God is not asking you to be Moses. You are becoming who God created you to be, even if you don’t feel joyful or even content in your life. This is part of your journey. This is what it means for you to keep going up and down the mountain to meet God. Don’t give up! God wants you to be more joyful, to experience the shalom that surpasses all understanding. God wants you to flourish and thrive in this world and the next one…and all you need to do is go up the mountain and meet God’s gaze. Be still. Listen. You may not hear His voice right away, but if you be quiet and take time in His presence, you will grow forward.
3. Take God seriously
“The Lord directed Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people not to break through to see the Lord; otherwise many of them will die.’” – Exodus 19:21. If you stop and carefully consider that one verse, you will see God in a whole different light. This will help you approach God with more care, attention, humility, awe and respect. What strikes you about Exodus 19:21? Write it down. Look at every three or four words. Ask God questions. Look up that one verse in different commentaries. For instance, why did the Lord refer to Himself as “the Lord” instead of “Me”? This simple question alone brings a million different theories, questions and ideas. Also, why would the Israelites die if they saw God? Would they die of joy or terror, beauty or horror?
Pay attention to how you treat the Lord, who created and sustains your life. Maybe our goal shouldn’t be to search for tips on how to be more joyful in life. Maybe pursuing joy — even the joy of the Lord — is the wrong task. Instead, maybe we should be pursuing God and taking Him more seriously. A joyful life will naturally arise out of a deep, solid, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Shalom springs out of connection, praise, love and fear of the Lord.
“Hold out your two weak arms to me: I will help you. We will do the work together, bearing unequal burdens. It is for the Father to shoulder the heavier end of things. As long as the small child gazes fondly into the Father’s eyes, the painful task will not seem so bad. What power for you, what joy for Me!”
How do you become more joyful in the Lord? Start by returning His gaze.
P.S. Are you struggling to make a decision or find the right path in your life? Read an Easy Way to Stop Overthinking God’s Will for Your Life.