Psalm 28:7-8 - The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. The LORD is the strength of His people; He is the saving refuge of His anointed.
The English language is chock-full of interesting phrases and playful expressions. Take, for example, the phrase "bum steer." Someone just learning English is likely to puzzle over the words at some length.
Think of the picture that is created in your mind if you accept its literal meaning. Such a playful image could legitimately include a Black Angus walking on his two hind legs and smoking a large, odoriferous cigar. The steer is probably carrying a long stick on the end of which hangs a bandana to hold all his earthly possessions. A bum steer. Why not?
New Christians can sometimes be given a bum steer, as it were, by some of the stock phrases we used to describe the Christian experience. Take, for example, the phrase "the joy of the Lord."
Some believers give the impression that once we come into a living relationship with Jesus, all problems magically disappear from our lives. Traffic lights turn on time. The people at the office elect us "Most Popular." The water heater never blows up.
On the other hand, some Christians walk around looking as though they had taken a bath in lemon juice. Problems dog them constantly. They aren't happy unless they face two new crises a day. They act as though the joy of the Lord is reserved only for heaven -- and the rest of us wonder how they'll even recognize it.
Both views give outsiders and new Christians a bum steer. God's joy, like God's love, flows to His people as a free gift. It falls gently as rain on thirsty ground. God means for us to experience an abundance of that joy here and now; it's not an experience reserved strictly for heaven.
His joy is our strength. That doesn't mean we won't encounter problems. But in the hard times, the hurting times, we can see His hand at work -- foiling Satan's schemes for us, working everything for our good as He has promised.
Sometimes circumstances won't look rosy. Sometimes gray may seem too joyful a color to describe our experience. But as God's people we are not bound by what we feel and see. Whether we see His deliverance at the moment or not, we can know His joy. Whether we feel like it or not, we can praise Him. And in such praise, we experience the joy that strengthens us, while we wait for Him to fulfill His promises.
As with nearly everything else in the Christian life, the joy of the Lord boils down to relationship -- our relationship with Jesus. It's a relationship of confident trust that keeps on reminding Him of His promises and living as though those promises were true, because they are! That kind of life radiates quiet joy. That kind of joy is our strength.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, joy is something we can know everyday because of the hope we have in Jesus. Let it not be far from our lips or our heart. Refresh us with the joy that is ours through faith and the forgiveness of our sins. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
From The Lutheran Layman, September 1983 issue, "No Bum Steer" by Jane Fryar
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