The Joy of the Lord
How the Joy of the Lord can sustain our being from first breath to last.
On March 31st of this year, my family and I celebrated the life and death of my cousin Michael Rodriguez. His death came as a shock, unfortunately occurring almost three years after his younger brother's death in 2020. For our family, hoping nothing like this would ever happen again, we are faced with death that is now forced in our personal space. Those who knew him, knew him as “Micho.”
Growing up, Micho introduced me and my siblings to the best comedy films ever. We would all then start quoting every line from Monty Python, Napoleon Dynamite, Tommy Boy, Happy Gilmore, GhostBusters, and so much more.
He worked at In-N-Out for years and would show us all his exclusive In-N-Out gifts and collectibles, and he would even give some of them away to us or his friends.
Micho was always smiling, always positive, and always filled with Joy. At every family gathering, there was Micho. Micho loved his family and he loved his friends. I would say, of course, anybody who meets Micho will be welcomed as family.
Love poured out of Micho wherever he was! He had such a loving heart; he had a heart that served and loved people, whether it was making them laugh or lending a helping hand.
Some of my favorite memories with him were when Pastor Matt and I launched the West Covina campus. Once he heard Matt was going to be the campus pastor, Micho couldn’t sign up fast enough to be part of the team. We would get to the West Co campus at 5am to set up, and there he was ready to help and often made me and the crew laugh so that we all would wake up.
Micho’s joy was so magnetic and so radiant. He pulled you in with a joyful heart, and it shined all around him.
Micho was a man who loved deeply, took on servanthood, and was someone who sought to be joyful in all things.
The fact that Micho carried this joy all throughout his life is proof of a God who deeply loves us throughout our lives. Micho always had the Joy of the Lord. I don’t know if you knew this, but when you talked to him, you experienced the Joy of the Lord.
His smile alone could fill the room with joy. His humor was like a never-ending well, always having some comedic quote or comment that would send us spiraling into laughter, to the point of sore cheeks and a sore stomach.
The common thread throughout Micho's life was the thread of Joy.
This joy he carried did not come from having everything put together or from making zero mistakes, no. Was he perfect? No! Are we perfect? I hope you would say no; otherwise, I’d have to write about humility instead of joy.
Micho tried to have the joy of the world, but that only brought struggles and pain. He wanted to find joy in the tempting desires of his mind and heart that served the flesh, but that only brought sorrow and suffering with no hope in sight.
So, the joy that Micho carried came from letting go of the past and holding on to the Joy of the Lord because he knew that in order to live a joyful life, he needed God to give him the strength to get to His joy.
What is this true Joy?
The Joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
This joy comes from experiencing the love of our heavenly Father and walking with Jesus as He helps move us forward to eternal life while being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Take a look at Psalm 16:8-11,
“I keep the Lord always before me;
with him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices;
my body also dwells secure,
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
nor let your devout one see the pit.
You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.”
The Joy of the Lord is around us because God's presence dwells in and around us. It is this joy that sustains our hearts in pure love and gladness.
As I write about this joy that my cousin Micho carried, I am still hit with the crushing and physical reality that I write this because he is not here anymore.
How can we be joyful when we are grieving and mourning?
In Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah tells the Israelites that the Joy of the Lord is our strength.
Joy of the Lord; our gladness in heart, is present with us even through times of trials and loss.
This is where God continues to work not only through us, but with us.
Does this imply a process of denial, as if we need to run away from our sorrows or mourning? By no means!
The Lord gives us strength through His joy when we go through struggles and loss. When we face too much to bear, it is His joy that holds us up.
The strength of the Lord’s joy enters with us into our suffering, but as we look to God for our healing, it is suffering that begins to fade as joy begins to fill our hearts, as our tears turn into hope. Jeremiah 31:13 says it perfectly,
“For I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.”
Yes, we mourn, we cry, we grieve, but the Joy of the Lord is right there as a comforter, ready to move as we are gradually willing to be comforted by His joy so that we can begin to come out of our sorrows and mourning and seek hope and step out in faith knowing that God is our Creator. He is the Maker of the heavens and the earth, and we may stand firm on the solid rock He has built for us so we won’t be shaken by death, but live in Christ through the Holy Spirit!
Again, how is the Joy of the Lord our strength? How is the Joy of the Lord unshakeable? How can it not be taken away from us? Not be stolen from us? How is the Joy of the Lord not defeated?
Death is and can be unexpected, but it does not have the victory!
The victory over our lives belongs to God, and God alone! We need to be glad and cheerful for that!
As we draw near to Easter and celebrate the life of Jesus, be reminded that:
The Joy of the Lord is our strength because it was this joy that gave Jesus the endurance on the cross to have victory over death, so that we may have gladness in the goodness and love of God!
In the book of Hebrews, it states that,
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It is through the death of Christ, Jesus being crucified on a cross, that joy can sustain us even in physical death because:
In our mourning there is joy
In our suffering there is joy
In our grief there is joy
In our situation there is joy
In our life there is Joy
God is not done with you yet.
Even in the physical death of my cousin Micho, God goes beyond to work through his life by bringing all of his family, all of his friends, and all of the people who knew him together, to celebrate his life which brings God's children back to the Joy of the Lord.
So, how can someone receive a joyful life?
By living according to God who humbled Himself in the person of Jesus; His son, to live that perfect life here on Earth, and to be put to death on a cross with our sin (past, present, and future), and then be resurrected from the tomb, conquering the wages of sin and death and all evil so we can be redeemed and restored back to our heavenly Father who gives us eternal life, which brings forth ultimate grace-filled joy as we live here on Earth!
We do not need to be afraid of death, because death is not the end of our story. Through Jesus, we have eternity. We have forever with God.
Many of us are living spiritually dead, and we need to be alive in Christ whether for the first time or again!
In the words of Jesus,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”
Micho’s life has not ended, but rather now has begun in eternity where there is no pain, no suffering, no depression, no sin. From the moment he was born, to stepping into eternity, he now gets to enjoy the fullness of the thread that has kept him joyful here, now in the fullness of the Joy of the Lord.
My hope and prayer is that you seek the Joy of the Lord and begin to see His joy in all things.