“Watch, O Lord, with those who wake or weep tonight, and give your angels and saints charge over those who slumber.“
“Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ, Rest your weary ones, Bless your dying ones, Soothe your suffering ones, Pity your afflicted ones, Shield your joyous ones,”
“And all for your love’s sake.”
Woven into this ancient ‘evening prayer’ is an idea of God meeting us with overflowing grace and kindness. There is a strong sense of God watching everyone! And there is also a “tending” sense that He has overall.
As I read this prayer, I seem to focus on the single phrase, “shield your joyous ones.” To think that these joyful people need protection strikes me as odd. Why do they even need a “shield?” Of all people, don’t they have it together?
God sees to our every need, and His flock can be incredibly needy.
As I thought it through, I started to realize that joy is its best standing in the shadow of warfare. The joyful ones are companions– “buddies” who share the same ‘fox hole’ on enemy lines. But this isn’t a grim thing, Nehemiah told those trying to build the city walls,
“The joy of the Lord is your strength”
Joy connects with the desperate need of the moment; it is the muscle of all ministry. And as a result, perhaps more vulnerable.
He didn’t say that the joy of the Lord is our happiness, cheeriness, or merriment.
But rather, joy would impart strength, and stiffen one’s ability to go to war for our brothers and sisters, our churches, and our communities. There are certain epoxy resins that will only harden when a special light is used on them. Maybe joy transforms into strength when we step toward our Father.
We need to spiritually protect and cover those who are His “joyous ones.” They can be found sprinkled throughout our churches and ministries. And they need us to shield them. They seem to be quite exceptional, and seemingly invulnerable. But that isn’t the case. We need to pray for them. Joyful people inspire me in battle.
“The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”