Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. —Nehemiah 8:9-12 NLT

The people of Israel had been standing for hours, listening to the reading of God’s Word. It had been a long time since these words had been read aloud in Israel. Those listening were mostly former captives from Babylon, newly replanted in their homeland. Most had been either too young to remember or born in Babylon and had only heard about this home country to which they had recently returned. And finally, here they were, listening to their God’s words to them, explained and laid out, without any interference or mocking from those who did not believe. It was overwhelming.

I am not surprised that they had been weeping that morning while listening all together in the square. They were home. They were hearing God’s good words. Perhaps they were staggered by His love and shamed by their disobedience to many of His laws. They might have been overwhelmed with relief to finally understand what God wanted from them—so much to take in and absorb. They listened, and they wept.

The first time I read this as an adult, I was struck by their leaders’ kind and endearing response. Dry your eyes, they told the people. This is a day of celebration. We’re home. We can hear and obey God’s words to us. He has spoken today in this square, and your hearts were soft. Go. Eat. Enjoy. Share with the poor among you and have a joyful time together.

It’s okay to be happy.

We need this message today! It’s okay to be happy. Countless sad and tragic events happen in our world and in our own lives every day. Sadness and grieving for others and for ourselves are natural and normal responses. But choosing joy is also okay—even in the hard times. The people listening to the law of the Lord that day had a tremendous amount of work ahead of them to reclaim the land and make it a safe place to live. They carried with them huge trauma from their past. Yet, what would make them strong? Joy. Joy in the Lord, their God, who spoke to them and gave them an understanding of His words. That would give them strength.

And this message is just as true today. If we sit in sadness, if we dwell on our inadequacies and failures, if we allow grief to consume us, we will wilt and wither. But when we remember God’s words of comfort, when we are reminded that one of the fruit of the Spirit is joy, when we recall Nehemiah’s words that the “joy of the LORD is our strength” (vs. 10), then we can choose to rejoice in the good and find hope and strength for the tasks that await us.

We are approaching the time of year at Sweet Selah Ministries when our ministry work stops. We call it “July Rest Month,” and that’s basically what we do in July. We rest. We celebrate just being God’s. We break from our normal ministry tasks. We celebrate the year past, look ahead with joy toward whatever God has planned next, and simply sit in the July sunshine, glad to be His very own. We acknowledge that our worth does not come from our busyness. We are of great worth because we are His—redeemed and dearly loved. We are blessed to have His Word to read and understand. We have a God who communicates with His children. July Rest Month is a happy time of refreshing! We hope you will also intentionally take some precious moments of rest and joy in the Lord, who is our strength. We’ll be back on these pages in August.

Oh, Father, how I thank You for giving joy to those who are Yours! Thank You for the blessing of good food and celebrations and Your Word so readily available to us. We are exceedingly grateful to be Yours and to know that You never leave us or forsake us. Please bless our July Rest Month. Help us to know You better and love You more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You are loved,



Sweet Selah Ministries 

To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Irene Bales
    June 26, 2024 2:55 pm

    Praying in agreement 🙏🏻
    Thank you for your ministry. It has
    blessed me in so many ways to be thankful for God’s continuous and faithful love for me and a deep desire for a more intimate relationship with the LORD. 🥰

    • Sharon Gamble
      June 26, 2024 6:53 pm

      What a blessing to read your kind words, tonight. Thank you for the encouragement, Irene!


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