“Say, what?” says Doom. “You’re resolving to have more JOY in 2014?”
“Haven’t you read the statistics, the predictions, the analyses, the forecasts, the Signs of the Times?” says Gloom.
“Get your head outa the sand,” adds Cynic.
But, yup, this is my second risky, go against the flow, swim upstream, and every-other-cliché-worthy expression applicable to unconventional resolutions.
Not that I am naturally inclined toward joy when things seem more mucked up than ever globally and locally.
Not that I am unaware of the stats.
Not that I am even one degree separated from Cynic, let alone six.
I just got the Good Word on it, is all, as in “The joy of the Lord is (my) strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
You see, I kept hearing this Scripture and waking up with that little tune that goes with it (“The Jo-oy of the Lo-or-or-ord is my strength,” repeat three more times and throw in an “oh” before the last one). And at odd times during the first few days of this new year, like one of those advertising jingles, the tune would pop up again in my mind, unsolicited.
Hmmmm, said I, maybe here’s a thought for ’14! Maybe even a “marching order” as into the uncharted territory of time we go.
And so I looked it up.
Joy, in the merriam-webster online resource is rendered, “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” The closest synonym is “delight.”
Not bad! I thought.
But really? Joy? (Insert sarcasm emoticon, here) (But Don’t tell D, G, and C), as economies crumble, a tsunami of corruption threatens to flood out our way of life, the mess in the Middle East comes to a boil, and so on.
Okay, there must be more to this.
Next resource: original language of the Scripture, where “joy” as in “chedvah” means the same: joy. BUT, as in all interpretation, context is everything, and Nehemiah DID attach the joy HE was talking about with “strength” as in “uz,” or, “a place or means of safety, protection” .
Now, how could “joy” also be “strength” and how could that strength actually protect us?
Generally speaking, the results of joy’s opposite, “misery” (as in “a state or feeling of great distress or discomfort of mind or body”—thefreedictionary.com), are well-known in any language: damage to the nervous and circulatory systems and to mental health. So the advantages of maintaining joy in that sense are obvious: a strong body and a sound mind.
But what is the strength of joy in the spirit?
I think the answer to this is put well, here: “This joy, gladness, is not happiness that depends on our circumstances and our moods; which has to do with our emotions or station in life. This joy is something that is constant; it is from within us because He lives within. One can have the same joy in terrible circumstance that they would have when all is well, the same attitude of being on the mountain top when they are in the valley” .
Indeed, when Nehemiah voiced these words to the Israelites, gathered for a reading of the Sacred Text after having re-built the Sacred City in the face of incredible odds, many were still recovering.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength” was not just encouragement, which it was, or some bumper-sticker feel-good phrase (or pop jingle) it was marching orders, in a sense, for there was much work—and resistance–still ahead. Indeed, the need for this kind of joy continues today as we face our own restoration and resistance.
For the joy that sustains in season and out is that which comes from within a man/woman, a gift from the Giver of all Joy Who engineered the efficacy of same for all systems, circumstances, and spirits.
Hmmm…okay, then! Joy works for me.
And I intend to work it, this year.
(Probably have to. Right?, D, G, and C?)
LATER THIS SAME DAY:Well, looky here! When I called my sister to tell her I had finally posted a piece on joy, because we have been talking about how the Nehemiah Scripture seems to be cropping up everywhere lately, she told me she saw a similar sentiment yesterday on the wall of the restaurant where she had lunch. Here’s the picture she took of it:
 Hebrew references from http://biblehub.com/hebrew/ for each term.
Note: a search for the composer of the melody put to the Nehemiah verse was unfruitful to date. If you know, please add.
Image from the public domain.