“You need to put your armor on. You’re going out there spiritually naked.”
Ouch. Spiritually naked? Me?
I had just confided to a ministry veteran that I was battling terrible doubts and anxiety every time I shared my writing online. Tottering out there on my “social media platform,” I had perpetual stage fright magnified by about 1000.
She listened with compassion, but then she gave me something I needed more than her kind hugs and reassurance that things would get easier over time. She started digging into my spiritual life (a.k.a. getting in my business) until she hit a place where I needed to hear truth:
I’d been letting Satan feed me a bunch of lies about God’s ability to protect and empower me to do what He’s called me to do. I’d also been caring more about what people might say or do than what God has already said about me as His beloved daughter. (I might have been sobbing into a Kleenex or two by the time that truth bubbled up. Ugh, people-pleasing. Will it ever go away?)
So yes, I’d been charging onto the battlefield spiritually naked and getting clobbered by enemy propaganda. I’d forgotten that I have God’s spiritual armor at my disposal, like His truth protecting me from sucker-punches to my gut and His righteousness covering my heart to remind me I’m approved and accepted by Him. (See the full list of battle-ready armor in Ephesians 6:10-19.)
I was embarrassed and sad that I’d needed her to point out where I’d let down my guard and listened to lies. I mean, I’ve known and loved the armor of God passages since I was a kid. Shouldn’t I have aced this stuff by now?
But then something cool happened as we applied God’s truth through prayer: I felt His peace wash over me and His joy break through to me. God’s got me! He’s not disappointed when I don’t get everything right! He’s leading and protecting me! His truth was setting me free. I was walking on sunshine, ready for a dance party in my car on the way home. (And you better believe when I got up this morning, I meditated on God’s armor and how He’s got my back.)
Thank God for wise people who tell us what we need to hear. We get distracted, confused, weary, and forgetful, and we need truth to shake us up, to get down where our hurts are so we can be healed. What makes tough truth bearable is that God Himself strengthens us with His joy.
God’s Word says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” but until I started my Joy30 scavenger hunt, I had no idea that verse—another one I’ve know since I was a kid—had everything to do with how God builds us back up after His truth breaks us down.
As recorded in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, the Jewish people were home at last after years of being forced to live in a conquering country. They’d eventually rebuilt their capital city Jerusalem, including God’s temple and the great city wall. Now they gathered for a celebration to hear the ancient Book of God’s Law for the first time in who knows how long. What was supposed to be a big party, though, turned into a big weep-fest. People’s hearts broke as they realized how far they’d fallen away from God’s good plans for them. The leaders tried to comfort them, or maybe just tried to stop the wailing since this was supposed be a feast not a funeral, but we’re talking about a nation of heartbroken people.
Finally, Governor Nehemiah steps in: “Go and eat delicacies and drink sweet drinks and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Then the Levites [temple workers] quieted all the people saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy. Do not grieve.” So all the people departed to eat and drink and to share their food with others and to enjoy tremendous joy, for they had gained insight in the matters that had been made known to them. Nehemiah 8:10-12
Yes, truth brought on the waterworks that come when people face up to stuff like sin, ignorance, and human weakness, but God’s joy over His people was right there to build them back up from their tears of repentance. This was His holy celebration, and He wanted them out there on His dance floor. Then, look what happened: truth itself—the insights that set them free—became part and parcel of their own “tremendous joy,” celebrated with what I imagine was a “fire-up all the grills, kick off your shoes, dance til the sun comes up” kind of party.
So next time Rend Collective pops up on your playlist reminding you that the “Joy of the Lord” is your strength, why don’t you take a page from my book and have a little dance party in your car over God’s truth in your life? Celebrate our Father who promises in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”