Steady in the Storm, Chapter Fourteen: Be Loved by the Lord Your God
“I could only play as well as a fourth grader practicing for the up and coming Christmas pageant, but the amount of joy created from these self taught lessons was unmatched. As soon as I had learned a song well enough to pass the app level, I would laugh and dance, praising my own accomplishments. The emotion of joy would usually bring up other emotions with it and I would unexpectedly find myself in deep sadness and burst into tears. I would bend over the ukulele in my lap with my hands on my face, just allowing the tears to flow and the emotion to wear itself out.”
When Rhett and I were going through the toughest part of the relapse I bought a ukulele. We were currently separated and I was muddling through my days, wondering if the marriage could even be saved. The advice of taking care of me first poured in from all over. I needed to dig back into my roots of creativity and find areas in my life I could experience joy agin. It all felt like so much work. Even pondering what art endeavour I could explore caused me to want a nap or a bath in the dark. I couldn’t imagine sitting down to draw, write, paint or play. But I knew everyone was right. I needed something to lift my spirits.
I’d always loved the idea of being able to play an instrument. I played the piano a bit as a kid and continued to long for the ability to create music. Money was tight and living in a basement suite, space was even tighter, so I bought a ukulele. Well priced, small, music creator. I spent a half hour to two hours a day practicing and learning. It gave me something to look forward to, something waiting for me at home, something I could achieve progress in and feel accomplished at the end of the day, but most of all, it gave me joy.
Sometimes the storm is so dark, long and scary that joy is not only a foreign concept, it’s near offensive. To feel joy is to go against all that makes sense in the moment. But the joy of the Lord is our strength, and when you’re going through it, you need a lot of strength. Psalms 28 says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”
Reading that on it’s own sounds so nice and tidy, but you should hear David’s heart prior to this line. Here is the whole chapter:
A psalm of David.
1 I pray to you, O Lord, my rock.
Do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you are silent,
I might as well give up and die.
2 Listen to my prayer for mercy
as I cry out to you for help,
as I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary.
3 Do not drag me away with the wicked—
with those who do evil—
those who speak friendly words to their neighbors
while planning evil in their hearts.
4 Give them the punishment they so richly deserve!
Measure it out in proportion to their wickedness.
Pay them back for all their evil deeds!
Give them a taste of what they have done to others.
5 They care nothing for what the Lord has done
or for what his hands have made.
So he will tear them down,
and they will never be rebuilt!
6 Praise the Lord!
For he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The Lord is my strength and shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
8 The Lord gives his people strength.
He is a safe fortress for his anointed king.
9 Save your people!
Bless Israel, your special possession.
Lead them like a shepherd,
and carry them in your arms forever.
David sounds like he’s at the end of his rope, yet the joy of the Lord is his strength. David knew the power of joy and he knew how to find it in music. Most of the Psalms were written in times of great desperation, yet we turn to them for our encouragement. It’s in the desperation that we understand we cannot do it all ourselves and we must turn to a power greater than ourselves. David knew this to be God.
Times are super hard right now. We are all feeling the vice of our current social and economic standings. Where is your joy coming from? If you scoff at that, I don’t blame you. If I was reading this in the middle of my storm I probably would have slammed down the device I was reading it on and walked away. What joy?! You have no idea what I’m going through, how dare you advise I’m even capable of joy right now. Trust me. I get it. And you need to find an area of your life that you can rest in. An area that provides you with joy so you can feel the joy of your Father and receive his strength.
God delights in us. He loves us deeply. He knows that going through hard things will only shape us and create our dependance on him. Fulfilling that dependance is God’s greatest joy! There is nothing he loves more than to meet us in our brokenness and become our strength. This is the delight and joy of the Father! But we can forget what it is to feel joy when times are hard, thus causing us to forget what it is to feel the joy of the Father, so find your area of joy and receive your strength from God!
If my area of joy can be a tiny guitar with nylon strings, I know you can find yours!