One of the Bible Verses I memorized as a kid in song form has helped me through some pretty tough times. If you grew up in church, you probably know this little song too from Nehemiah 8:10. In some of my most painful, sleepless nights, I’ve laid in bed singing, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” When I’m too mentally tired to fight any more or begin to feel defeated or overwhelmed, I sing this little song to remind myself that I can’t win the battles I’m facing in my own strength. I need God’s help and His strength in the toughest of times. I can have tears streaming down my face and begin to look for God’s joy that’s not circumstantial. He gives strength in our weakness and helps us to rise up like eagles, to keep running and not grow weary and to walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
Another promise to us who find our strength in the Lord comes from Psalm 84:5-6. It says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness! Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring” (TPT). Each of go through the valley of tears in our lives. Some of us spend longer times in that valley, but we’re encouraged to keep looking to the Lord for strength during these times to stay renewed and to keep us moving forward, especially when we feel we have nothing left in the tank. God wants us to dig deeper inside to find those pools of refreshing through our pain and sorrow.
The brook of blessing refreshes us in the valley. It gives us hope that God still sees us and hasn’t forgotten us in those dark times. He reminds us that we are His and He’s giving us the chance to experience the depths of grace most people will never know because they only see the pain. But we have a peace that passes understanding knowing that our trials produce endurance, character, and a hope that will not leave us disappointed (Romans 5:3-5). We also know that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), but we have to look past the pain to see that He is doing something in us that can’t be done any other way. He’s showing us we are capable of enduring anything when we find our strength, hope and joy in Him.
In one of the darkest times of my life, I felt like everything was crumbling around me. I couldn’t sleep or eat for days. I laid in bed at night and would repeat Nehemiah 8:10. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Over and over I would say it. Then I started singing it through the tears. It became my mantra. Because of that, even though my world was crumbling around me, I found a place deep within that gave me hope that I would make it through it. Some days I couldn’t see past a minute in front of me, but i knew if God would help me survive that minute, then I could survive the next. God would remind me of Scriptures to hold on to or He would have someone give me one out of the blue. Life was hard, but God provided a way through it and gave me strength to endure.
Psalm 84:5-6 says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord…Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring” (TPT ). This promise is to those who find their strength in the Lord first of all. Every one of us goes through the dark valley of tears. What I love is that God says, “Pick up your shovel during that time and start digging. Beneath all that pain is a pool where you can find strength and refreshment.” We’ve got to dig deeper than the way things appear on the surface. We’ve got to dig deep into God’s Word. We’ve got to dig deep into His promises, and put our roots there. If they’re on the surface, we’ll be blown over like a tree in a hurricane. Our roots cannot remain at surface level in the dark valley of tears.
You can either be defeated in that valley or you can find the brook of God’s blessing. God is pouring out blessings all the time, but we don’t see them because we get too focused on the things going on around us. Lamentations 3:21-25 says, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him” (GNT). You can have hope in the dark valley of tears when you focus on God’s unfailing love to get you through it and His mercy to remind you that this is a season and there are mountain tops still ahead. Trust and hope in the Lord and draw your strength from Him.
I’ve often heard that joy is not circumstantial, but happiness is. To many of us, the two are the same. I believe that happiness is an external expression as a result from a feeling. Joy, on the other hand, is what creates hope and optimism even in the face of circumstances that tell you otherwise. Joy is what gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other, to breathe in and breathe out and to get out of bed when all we want to do is curl up and cry. Joy gives us peace in troubled times.
The Bible speaks a lot about Joy. In one instance, Job had been faced with great loss to his family, finances and health. Things got so bad that his own wife told him, “Curse God and die!” She had let the circumstances steal her Joy. She saw no way out of the situation. She had no hope for the future. She was mad at God, mad at life and mad at her husband. She couldn’t understand why her husband still held onto his faith in God in such trying times. It just didn’t make sense.
I’ve found that a lot of life doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. I don’t pretend to know why God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I pray for Him to. Just because He doesn’t, I shouldn’t stop praying. I shouldn’t grow bitter against Him. I shouldn’t sever our relationship. It’s easy to do those things in the midst of a trial if you don’t have Joy. It’s easy to want to quit, renounce your faith and walk away because you’re mad at God. But Job proved that you can go through unimaginable pain and maintain your Joy. Was he sad? Yes. But even in his sadness, he did the hard thing. He held onto Joy.
I’m sure he began to wonder why he was holding onto it after a while. I’m sure over time the situation, the questions and longevity of his trial began to wear on him. During that time, a friend named Bildad came to encourage him. In Job 8:21, he reminded Job of who God was and what He promised His people. He said, “He (God) will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” He reminded Job that the circumstantial sadness was only temporary.
I believe that verse is God’s promise to us today. He will once again return laughter and joy to your life no matter what your circumstances have brought you. I love Psalm 30:5. It’s very familiar to lots of people. You’ve heard it read as, “Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning.” I especially love how the Message puts it. It says, “The nights of crying your eyes out will give way to days of laughter.” Circumstances will tell you those days will never come, but Joy says it’s on its way. That’s a promise from God.