He said to them, “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.”
–Nehemiah 8:10 NET
A little over 20 years ago, I heard a talk on spiritual formation where the speaker referenced this passage in Nehemiah. Frankly, I cannot remember anything the man said except for one question he asked, “What if the joy of the Lord in this passage is really about God’s enjoyment of us rather than our enjoyment of him?”
Boom! It was like an explosion took place in my heart and mind. I’ve always heard that “our joy in the Lord as we eat and labor before him, will sustain us.” Whether implied or actually preached, I just assumed sustained faith had something to do with whether I liked or enjoyed God. Of course, it does to some degree. Consequently, while for years as I struggled with whether I liked him or not, trying to make sense of things I could not reconcile in my heart, there was a little grey cloud that hung over me. My life could not be as good as it could because I had problems with the way God treated his friends. That might all change if I’d just get on board with accepting God’s plan for my life. So I thought.
Fast forward to that day, sitting in a retreat center in Cessy, France, a whole new way of thinking opened up to me. God actually liked me…and that produced joy. It added new importance to a Heavenly Father actually singing and rejoicing over me as one would rejoice over a favored child. (Zephaniah 3:17)
I don’t know about you, but just the thought of God enjoying me causes me to relax a bit, like settling into the lap of Papa in his comfy chair with a content smile on my face, snuggled up close.
ACTION: What does the thought of being God’s favored child produce in you? If you have trouble imagining God singing over you, taking great delight in you, take some time to let that image sink into your imagination. What might you hear him singing over you in the process?