I am so blessed to have the privilege to be with people in some extremely tough circumstances and times in their lives. On one occasion as serving as a hospital chaplain, I visited a patient who was going through a tough time. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him a general question about how he was doing. He looked at me and with a smile and gleam in his eye, he declared, “I am joyful!”
He was facing many medical challenges and I reasoned in my mind this patient had plenty of opportunity not to be joyful. He had every human right to be discouraged and feeling down. What was different with this patient? He shared with me he had a relationship with God and he was banking on a promise found in the Bible in Nehemiah 8:10: “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
This man’s joy was not based on his external circumstances, but was rooted in the strength and gladness that God had already given him. I am sure he had experienced many other “ups and downs” in life, but he had this deep gladness, security, and history of walking closely in a relationship with Jesus that went beyond what currently he was experiencing.
This scripture was written in a time where the people of God had turned to other things, which temporarily made them satisfied but left them empty. It was only after receiving God’s forgiveness and realizing they could not do it on their own that they then could rest in the joy of the Lord.
God allowed them to receive that joy and further came near when Jesus Christ came to earth. When Jesus died and rose again, he restored us to a peace with God that cannot be undone. Not only does this peace bring us into relationship with God, but it allows us to experience a strengthening joy to face the hard challenges in life.
Are you in need of peace and joy? Choose, like this amazing patient, to experience the freedom Jesus gives, and you too can rest in the joy of the Lord as it will be your strength in whatever you will face!
Pastor Frank Alioto serves as a chaplain with Central Peninsula Hospital and Central Emergency Services.