We made it to the Joy of Easter! How did we get here so fast? Before I jump into my victory cheer, singing Alleluia at the top of my lungs, I want to go back to what we just experienced in the last 40 days and dig deeper into one of my favorite scriptures found in Nehemiah (8:10),
“The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
That scripture promise can be particularly comforting during trials and tribulations.
Where Does Joy Come From?
Lent can be hard. Sacrifices are made, we pray, we fast, we give, and we wait. We are willing to go through the hard stuff because as Christians we know how the story ends, we know that the hope and joy of Easter is on it’s way, and we also know that joy can be found in the midst of our suffering too, so we embrace it all… or do we?
One time when I had a particularly hard Lent and was having a difficult time finding joy in life, I asked the Lord to reveal to me where joy comes from, and what it looks like, and how His joy can be my strength. I was eager not only to find it and feel it for myself again, but to also see it tangibly. It had been a while since I was joyful, and I wasn’t even sure I would recognize it if it showed up.
It was during Holy Week where, with eyes wide open, I looked for it. I knew joy would come on Easter Morning as it always did, but was there joy in the midst of the sorrowful week that preceded it? I had always looked at Holy Week as a week full of sorrow. The sadness of the last supper with friends where he knew, even as he broke bread, he was being deceived by someone he loved; or during the time in the garden where he felt the human feelings of fear of what was to come. Then when he was mocked, flogged, hungry and in pain and when he walked up to cavalry carrying the heavy cross and the sins of the world on his back, and then horrifically nailed to the cross and hoisted up for all to see. Even though I know he was dying for our sins, it still looked a whole lot like suffering to me, where was the joy in all this? I needed to know, can there be pure joy in the midst of the suffering too?
As I sat in church that Holy Week, I felt the Lord reveal the joy that I was asking to see in tangible ways as I listened and reflected on the readings and the stations of the cross. There were three things that particularly caught my attention where joy was found in the suffering and where the joy of the Lord became others’ strength that I had not seen before:
- The first, at the Last Supper. Jesus gave his joy as he sat with his friends; teaching, ministering, eating, rejoicing, and reminiscing. He showed what it was to have a servant’s heart, and what it meant to be truly present. That night was about sharing joy in how much he loved and how he showed love to his friends. This would become their strength for the days that followed.
- The second, on Jesus’ way up to Calvary. We hear the traditional story of Saint Veronica, moved with compassion and sorrow as she saw Jesus, tired, in pain and sweaty, dragging his cross up the hillside. With a servant’s heart, she removes her veil for Jesus to wipe his face. As she receives it back, she now has the face of Christ miraculously emblazoned on the cloth. His joy of being helped even in the simplest of ways was now a tangible example of the joy that comes from being loved and cared for. By Veronica sharing this good news with others, it becomes all of our joy and strength.
- And lastly, the dialogue between Jesus and one of the thieves who was crucified next to him. Scripture tells us the good thief begins rebuking the other thief who was antagonizing Jesus in Luke (23:40-43),
“Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Can you imagine the joy and strength that must have given the good thief? Knowing that God’s mercy, even after all he had done, was enough? The joy he must have felt knowing that because of his heartfelt repentance, after he takes his last breath he will be with Jesus in paradise! I imagine that strength must have gotten him through the final hours of his physical suffering on the cross.
Joy and Strength Through The Sacraments
These scripture stories also helped me to see that God was revealing to me other tangible ways to feel and receive the Joy of the Lord, through our beautiful Church sacraments and being of service to others. Every week when I go to church and receive the Body of Christ, I am filled with the Joy of the Lord, as Christ meets me with love in the form of bread. His holy presence within me gives me strength. Through the sacrament of confession, when like the good thief, I make a sincere confession, the joy that fills me knowing His mercy and grace has just been poured over me. It is the strength I need to do better, try harder and walk in peace. Also, to be in service to others brings the Joy of the Lord down to earth. When you put Jesus first, then others and then you… you are living out His Joy! How blessed are we to have so many great examples and sacraments that express that the Joy of the Lord is truly our strength!
So, can there be pure joy in the midst of the suffering too? Yes! How great is our God!!! Let us celebrate this Easter season with joy- Alleluia, Alleluia- Holy is His name!
Mandi-bre Watson is a passionate follower of Jesus, a devoted wife, and a mother of 4. Through her writing and speaking, she tries to be a beacon of hope as she points people to the Savior. She owns a small marketing company that helps other small businesses and is also the owner of an online boutique, Veiled in Love, where she sells her handmade veils. She is a certified Spiritual Companion through Oblate School of Theology & an active member of St. Francis of Assisi Church. Mandi-bre is also the Emcee of the 2022 Catholic Women’s Conference and serves as a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.