Thought for the Week – 07th March 2021 Alison Bygrave
Joy When I began to think and pray about my next thought for the week, I planned to write about faith, what could be wrong with that?
However, as I write we have entered another period of lockdown, and though we do need faith, somehow, I feel we need Joy at this time. How can I be joyful about not seeing my three-year-old grandson for almost a third of his life? How can I be joyful about being indoors for another extended period? I feel quite weak at the prospect.
BUT Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the ‘Joy of the Lord is your strength’. What does that mean? And what does it mean for me and for you?
Praising God can help our mental health. In Psalm 22, the psalmist is feeling that God has forsaken him and that, though he cries out by day and night to God, God is not answering. However, then he starts to recall that his predecessors put their trust in God and God delivered and saved them and did not disappoint them. So instead of hiding away and feeling sorry for himself he decides to be someone who will declare God’s name in the congregation, to remind them of God’s goodness and saving power. And as he works out what he will say in the future to his fellow believers, he is able to see the truth about God again and he realises that ‘they who seek the Lord will praise him’ (v20). So, as we look for things from the past to thank God for, God enables us to rejoice in the present and then we have the strength to carry on.
Going back to Nehemiah, the Israelites had experienced great trauma, being exiled to Babylon and forced to sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land (Psalm 137). However, God had restored them to Jerusalem. The walls had been rebuilt, they were settled back into their own towns and Ezra the priest came out to read the Law of Moses to the whole population who has assembled in Jerusalem. The people wept as they heard the words of the Law but Nehemiah and the Levites said Do not weep, this is a day of rejoicing. They were back in the place that meant so much to them, the place they had remembered in exile as their highest joy (Psalm 137:6).
So, as we look forward to one day meeting together again and rejoicing, whenever that might be, why don’t we start thinking now about all the things we will be able to share about how God has kept us through the pandemic, what prayers he has answered and what we have learned about him. When we feel down and negative, let’s challenge ourselves to keep a Joy list, which we can praise God for now and share in the future in the congregation, (Psalm 22:22 & 25).
As this year’s church text tells us in Matthew 25:21, God gives us joy. ‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.’ There may not be a lot we can do at the moment, but we can be faithful and God will give us his joy and strength.