I was 21 years old and dwelling in the midst of black squirrels and fiddle heads when Nehemiah 8:10 first came alive to me. Three summer months in the midst of Huron National Forest as a counselor at Camp Barakel sparked a change in my relationship with God.
That summer I learned what it meant to depend on God for strength in a new way. Up to that point, I’d never really been stretched in my faith. I grew up being a camper at church camp nearly every year of my life since 4th grade, but my responsibilities as a counselor one week after the next brought on a whole new meaning to tired once we were about 5 or 6 weeks through the camping season.
In that time I’d witnessed the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of dozens of girls, learned to build campfires, made lifelong friends with other counselors, and learned to rock the bandana and side braids hair style.
Somewhere in the middle of all of those positives, I felt weariness settle in. Spiritual warfare and resistance comes when God is at work, and in spite of all of the great things I was experiencing, I began to feel the effects of the battles. I believe it was during one of the TAWG (Time Alone With God) times the resident staff encouraged us to take on our days off from campers that I found the treasure of Nehemiah 8:10b.
“Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Strength. How I needed it!
As happy as my surroundings were, I felt the joy waning a bit as the weeks turned into routines rather than adventures. I felt grieved because I could sense the apathy threatening to take over even while I knew God was present and at work all around me.
So I made the verse my theme verse as a new group of campers arrived on those beloved green and white buses. I began to pray for God to give me joy, and thus give me strength to bring Him glory rather than wasting my energy on being frustrated.
And He did just that.
I felt the joy creep back in as the week progressed. I forgot about my petty insecurities as my campers and I painted our faces with charcoal and splashed around in the lake.
I felt God’s joy strengthen me to do what He’d called me to do. I wondered at His beautiful creation and felt the burst of energy I needed to roll out of bed early enough to spend some time alone with Him before ministering to my girls.
This was the first time I took notice of the power of God’s Word at work in my life, and I clung to the promise and challenge that small portion of scripture offered me as I completed my time at camp that summer.
A decade later, I still hold onto the rock pictured above. One of my sweet friends and fellow counselors painted it for me during craft time one day after we’d talked about how much the scripture meant to me. I keep it as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to provide joy-induced strength when I need it. It also reminds me to look to God’s Word for answers and to hide it in my heart so it’s readily available when I need it.
This post is the first in a series of posts I hope to write that share when and why various Bible verses became an important part of my life. It’s all a part of my quest to live out my word for 2013 – identify. I want to identify the many ways God has been faithful to me throughout my life.
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