Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
JOY? WHEN THE WORLD IS SUCH A MESS?
I read an advertisement the other day featuring underground bunkers “the elite” are having made for themselves in order to escape the coming global whatever. Besides subterranean hideaways there are also a number of floating fortresses decked out to sustain the one-percenters. There’s big money in engineering top end survival.
On the other end of the financial spectrum where many struggle to make it payday to payday, there is also plenty of income to be gleaned by those hawking guns, grub, and gold sold in more affordable amounts.
Why bring this up–isn’t it always a good idea to be prepared?
Yes, it is, but I write on this topic today because of the other reason people are heading for the hills, at least for what hideaways they can afford, and why smart entrepreneurs selling security are becoming rich: fear.
Fear is relentless, of course in any era and socioeconomic level. But anybody who has been paying attention to the kind of bottom up, top down, and inside out mayhem that seems to have ramped up exponentially in the past several years agrees there is much more evil afoot now than seems to have ever been.
Those who track Bible prophecy also note the resemblance of the days in which we live to the days at the end of the Church Age prior to the Great Tribulation and the second coming of Jesus Christ as described in several books of the Bible.
But be that all as it may, the question for today is, how does a body, rich or not, prepared or not, counter the fear and stress?
Escapism (plenty of apps for that) is one way. Other ways include avoidance, denial, labeling all the bad news “fear mongering,” “fear porn,” and/or “fake news”.
But despite all the temporary (or designed) distractions there remains a certain low rumble of tension, like the approach of a fleet of war planes not yet quite visible in the darkening clouds above, but getting louder…closer…
So what is this joy of which Scripture teaches?
And how is it “powerful”?
THE POWER OF JOY
I’ve always been curious about this verse:
“Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NASB).
The historical context is the occasion after the rebuilding of the ancient wall around Jerusalem and the restoration of the Temple when the Israelites gathered to rejoice in the completed projects, to worship God, and to hear the words of the Law.
And when the Law (the existing Bible then) was read to them–and explained so they understood it, the people wept (as in mourned).
It is left to the reader to piece together the elements of the grief experienced at that celebratory occasion where the weeping was “bitter,” the emotion, profound. One can only surmise in one’s own life, when Holy Spirit “explanation” and “conviction” woven through the completed Word of God takes place, how and why it affects a person so deeply.
But my purpose here is to point out the two-fold mandate, as it were, given the people just then which is, I believe, what can strengthen us today as the relative “safety” of the “walls,” as we have known them, surrounding our lives seem to be increasingly breached, trampled, and torn down.
The double mandate is 1) do not be grieved, and 2) return to the joy “of the Lord”–to its strength. I say “return” because it is implied that grief had interrupted the people’s joy then and–fast forwarding–can do so now.
Not only that, but prolonged grief (past its natural conclusion, that is), if not dealt with, also impedes well-being and one’s ability to function in many aspects of life.
Granted, in “reality”, as it were, the analogy I am drawing is limited because our grief today still exists due to the continuance of breached security, whether the walls providing safety are brick and mortar or ideological. We can only hope that this or that person or event or governing system will result in resumed physical safety. The history of warfare doesn’t give lasting hope in that, though.
However, if one considers our real enemy, as in “principalities and powers” of the unseen that wreak havoc in the seen, we can have hope, thus joy, in the fact that Jesus “became that wall” for us by His sacrifice on the cross.
In other words, in Jesus Christ we have real protection against the real wall destroyers: Satan and his minions.
If we understand this.
Indeed, it is for lack of such knowledge the people of God are destroyed–not only spiritually but physically as well. See here for this verse in the original language and context.
Put another way, Jesus became the law that protects us now both spiritually and physically, the wall in the ancient city being a type and shadow of Him. As put in Galatians 3:24, NLT:
The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.
OUR STRENGTH TODAY
There is still a time (many times) for grief, to be sure, due to faithlessness and turning away from God, aka sin. But the Nehemiah verse implies not to dwell in grief, immediately followed by the reminder about the strength of joy.
Because grief, if prolonged, as noted above, waylays the process of recovery, keeps us stuck there.
And if we, too, listen to the reading of God’s Word, like the ancients and to its contextual meaning with a teachable heart, we understand that we, too, can have a return to joy no matter the condition of the “wall” in our day.
And I believe returning to our joy is key to relief from stress and fear.
A good place to start the journey back is by hearing (for the first time or once again) the truth about God’s real nature, His unconditional love for all those who receive it through faith in Jesus Christ, and the truth about His forgiveness which, as explained in Psalm 103, verse 12, removes us from our transgressions “as far as the east is from the west.”
Even in the “real world,” that is, the world we perceive through our limited senses in our limited dimensions, returning to joy minimizes stress and fear and keeps us aware, alert, and ready for action–to prepare, pray, and proceed as is fit for our times.
Not only that, if these are indeed the prophetic times many believe them to be, believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior also get to “look up for our redemption* draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28–from the original text in the original language).
*Redemption as in “deliverance from the hatred and persecutions of enemies by the return of Christ from heaven.”
Some call this event the Rapture, and various groups hold to its taking place either pre, mid, or post the Tribulation period , but whatever the timing (I favor pre), the biblical pattern of deliverance from evil, all believe, is close.
And as stress and fear via exceedingly formidable (both visible and invisible) foes ramp up, what greater joy is there than the anticipation of that day when Jesus Christ returns to that very same city Nehemiah helped restore in ancient times, to begin the safety and protection of HIS reign, both spiritual and temporal, soon? And not just for some, but for all?