I have found audiobooks to be helpful companions as I grind through my workday. Recently, I’ve listened to several challenging works on the calling of every Christ follower to die to self in order to live for God and for others. Frankly, these have affected me deeply. I’ve recognized how short I fall of these biblical ideals.

The people of Israel, who had returned from seventy years of exile, must have felt the same way. The book of Nehemiah recounts that deeply moving time in their history. Ezra, the priest, had read the Book of the Law to them, which narrated their long history of first following God and then falling away from him. As these words sank in, the people wept. They were overwhelmed. They saw how short they fell in relationship to the God who had been so good and patient with them.

In the midst of the people’s grief, Nehemiah, their leader, expressed amazing words of comfort. “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Wow! Instead of condemnation, he told them to be joyful. Why? What can I learn from this as I see so clearly my own shortcomings?

Because God is merciful, he always makes a way for those who grieve over their sin to return to him. Knowing this, we can truly have joy. And in this joy, we can walk forward, despite our failures. In his joy and strength, we can rest in his mercies and faithfulness that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Heavenly Father, thank you for your amazing grace and mercy toward those who grieve over their sin and turn to you. Thank you that you never turn away those who earnestly seek your love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Go Deeper — Write “God loves me” on a piece of paper then hold it up to your face in a mirror. Let it demonstrate the fact that when you concentrate on the Lord and not yourself, you can have joy because he covers your sins with his mercy when you confess them with a contrite heart.

Tags: Joy Nehemiah 8
Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder