It was the spring of 2004, and I had just had another disappointing track meet. Things just weren’t clicking at the time, and my frustration continued to boil. That’s one thing you’ll quickly learn about throwers. They seem to live in frustration – always chasing a big throw and perfect technique, but only satisfied some of the time. This, was one of those times.
I shook my head as I walked to my bag, threw down my shot, and angrily shuffled my gear. My mind raced with the frustration of another bad day of throwing, but was startled as my dad’s booming voice bellowed something I have heard plenty of times in my life, especially during track season.
“Hey, son, the Joy of the Lord is your strength,” he said as he watched me slowly turn and try to hide my eye roll.
You see, I wasn’t rolling my eyes at the Truth he was speaking, but rather, the fact he always knew this is exactly what I needed to hear. In the years following, this Bible verse (Nehemiah 8:10) would stick with me all my years of throwing. And, inevitably, in my father’s deep voice.
“… do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I have been studying through the book of Nehemiah and this verse stuck out to me, again. But, it wasn’t because I was reeling after a bad competition, but because of the impact it has on me, and all of us, in life. It’s a simple word, but seems to be awful hard for us to embrace – JOY. Yep. Joy. Like, “Joy to the World,” joy.
Honestly, if you look at the current statistics of “joy” in our world, it’s kind of depressing. So, what’s the deal? Why aren’t we willing to experience joy? What has us so down?
When my dad reminded me to have joy, he was reminding me where my worth and joy truly comes from – my relationship with Jesus Christ. Amidst something as trivial as a bad day of throwing, my strength lies in my joy of the Lord. As I try to be a good father to my five sons, husband to my amazing wife, friend to my buddies, employee to my bosses, and light in this world, am I full of joy? Or, am I letting anger, depression, frustration seep in?
I recently spoke at a few schools about this topic, and one of the things I challenged them with was to make the everyday things fun; to find fun in the mundane. When I was working in a large office, a group of co workers and I would do just this. Now, I will admit, I did my fair share of practical jokes and singing made up songs about my fellow cubemates, but the best thing we did was what we called, the “Man Ball” [insert movie trailer voice]. Now, it sounds both odd and grandiose, but it was just a stress ball that we labeled the most coveted prize on the whole 11th floor. Each day, we’d gather around one desk to see who the ultimate champion was. Almost always centered around sports trivia, the group would select the genre, but the previous day winner would pose the question. Riddled with serious issues like, “Top five winningest franchises in NFL history,” or “top five guys with the most assists in NBA history,” we’d head back to our cubes to write down our answers.
A few hours might pass as we’d get back to work, but always thinking about that ever so serious question. As the “Man Ball” grew in popularity in the office, folks would stop by and ask what the question of the day was, all while knowing not to disturb the contestants with guesses or answers. To be the ultimate office champion, you had to tackle this task alone.
By midafternoon, inevitably, one of us would yell for all to hear; “We ready for Man Ball?” [insert our own sorry attempt at a movie trailer voice]
The circle would form again as the current champ would look up the answer. Groans and laugher would ensue as mocking and jubilation let all know the winner. Did the current champ remain, or did another prove victorious? All you had to do was watch the group return to their desks – to the victor go the spoils … a red stress ball.
Some of us were more humble than others, while others would brag of their title; tossing the ball, bouncing the ball, prodding co workers about their successful day, taking it to lunch with them. Yet, it never failed, folks from other departments would stop by and ask, “So, who won today?!”
This event went on for a couple of months, and while we initially instituted a “Physical Test Friday,” it was quickly ended by management as you’re not supposed to be throwing, carrying, jumping, or lifting in a bank office. Who knew?
Sadly, “Man Ball” ended one day – evidently HR heard of our fabled challenges, and asked that we include everyone and change it to “Human Ball.” Yep. “Human Ball,” as you might suspect, didn’t quite have the same allure and faded fast. While we were greatly disappointed, the tall tales and memories lived on – when our jobs consisted of talking about reports, financials and loan documents, the “Man Ball,” provided the joy and fun for at least a part of the day.
For me, the best way to live with more joy, is to have joy in the everyday things. And, amazingly, if we’d pull our faces out of our phones occasionally (only after you read this article, though), we’d find that God created a pretty amazing world that has plenty of things to be joyful about. He has so many great things planned and afforded to us – let’s enjoy them!
So, today, have joy! Celebrate in Him and the amazing things He does! Let the joy of the Lord be your strength!