For years this was one of those clichés I knew but didn't really believe or think about. One of those texts printed on plaques and posters, vaguely soothing because it's familiar.
Then I discovered the paradox; how one could examine the promises of God, and also examine the messy circumstances of our lives, even if the two were in contrast there was hope as I cried out to God to fulfill his promises in my here and now. And I began experiencing a lot more joy than I'd been used to. This familiar but not understood phrase began to mean something. There is joy, and getting it, living in it enables you to cope with a lot. Like I wrote in the book, joy is like an emotional oven mitt. Open your heart to joy and it protects you from feeling burned by life.
Two days ago, I came across this verse in its context. Nehemiah 8:10. The people of Jerusalem have gathered together and Ezra the scribe is reading the law out loud. Many people are mourning, probably thinking of all the ways they had not kept the law. Nehemiah says don't mourn, rejoice, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So even then, under the Law, there is grace. Don't be discouraged by what you have done or not done, rejoice that God is at work in you. How much more can we rejoice that God is in us, knowing Jesus has come and brought the New Covenant to us.