Joy in the Middle

While biking on vacation, I came to this scene by the water’s edge which seemed to have leapt right out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby

Was it a photo shoot or just folks aiming to have a special picnic?

I didn’t know but there was no photographer at the time, and I wondered if one had already come and gone. I stopped my bike briefly to take a picture. I assumed if you staged this elaborate a picnic in a public place that you expected other folks might document the occasion.

But then someone else rolled up—a guy on a mower just doing his job that morning. I hadn’t noticed before, but he was cutting concentric circles around the picknickers.

They didn’t budge.

The mower kept getting closer, but they had their plan, and they were going to enjoy their time maybe thinking it wouldn’t matter if the grass in that area was a couple of inches longer than the rest of the lawn. Perhaps they were celebrating something or someone special.

Finally, the mower left.

Sometimes it’s like that with joy. We’ve chosen to have it in the face of difficult circumstances, and yet the enemy is cutting concentric circles around us, too—intent on running off what God has put in our hearts. It can feel as if the walls are closing in. That’s when we must dig in and hold on.

We find in Nehemiah 8:10 this verse, “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” These words about joy were spoken by the prophet Ezra to a people who had fallen away from God and grown sorrowful over it. They were given to encourage the people to rejoice in their restoration to the Lord. It was a time of celebration not mourning.

Roland Warton in his recent book, The Surprising Power of Joy, writes "Joy . . . is an inward marking, an inside furnishing provided by Holy Spirit that is available to us permanently, consistently, and without end. Never diminished in itself, as it comes from Him, and as we will learn, joy is found in Him as an attribute of Himself."

"An attribute of Himself." I love that. Joy is God showing up in our inward being. It is not something we must manufacture. In choosing Him, we choose joy despite the circumstances. That joy may not always manifest itself outwardly as us turning cartwheels but instead may be that inner continual feast on the presence of the Lord. 

So, when the enemy aims to make joy scatter, let's remember the steadfastness of these folks with parasols when the mower encroached.

Let's consider grabbing our baskets and having a picnic, too. 

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