His Joy Was Her Strength


In my mother’s family there were two very committed Christians:  my great Uncle David and his wife Florence.  My grandmother and mother did not respect their fervor very much.  Grandma would pull up the story about how they put their money in a Christian retirement center (this is decades before the PTL Club scandal) but it was a scam and they lost their whole investment.  My mother would become annoyed at Aunt Florence’s letters from Florida.  Uncle David had a stroke in the 1950’s that left him unable to speak, and as years went on he lost other basic functions.  Aunt Florence’s life revolved around caring for him for a long time.  Her letters were punctuated, sometimes every other sentence, with “Praise the Lord” for this aspect or that where she felt God had been blessing her in her difficult situation.  “Why does everything have to be ‘Praise the Lord’ “? My mother would say with annoyance.

A few years after I became a Christian I had the privilege of spending an evening with Aunt Florence in Florida.  What sweet fellowship this elderly saint gave to a young girl!  She actually alluded to the investment scam; perhaps she knew my sharp tongued grandmother had surely told me the story.  Then she simply said, “But God took care of us.”  Clearly He had.  She was living in a beautiful retirement home such as I had never seen.  She told me things I had never heard about that happened before I was born.  I learned that Uncle David had been my mother’s favorite uncle.  It was an unforgettable evening.  I look forward to our reunion in glory.

I was thinking of Aunt Florence today and how she wrote, “Praise the Lord” all the time.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that she had an incredibly daunting task taking care of Uncle David and that praising God and rejoicing in all the little things He does to ease our burdens kept her together during those years.   Rejoicing in God was the secret power that made it possible for her to go on. Recently I have had some trying times, and as I write my friends to update them I find my writing has started to resemble Aunt Florence’s:  “I am so thankful for this…..”  “Thank God for our answered prayers for that….”

Paul records in Philippians that he rejoices in his many difficult circumstances.     He tells the Philippians, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…. I can do anything through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil.4:12b and 13)

About Paul’s unnamed secret of contentment with his lot, either good or bad: was it the joy he mentioned throughout the letter?  He had learned, as Nehemiah had said, that when he saw things from God’s perspective, the joy of the Lord became his strength.  He had actually been showing his readers the whole way through that the strength to endure came through His rejoicing in the Lord and what the Lord was bringing about in believers’ lives.

Paul learned that God’s joy gives strength, that it is strength.  Centuries later, God had taught it to my Aunt Florence, and now He is teaching it to me.  I hope I learn it as well as my Aunt Florence did.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv Enabled