Joy is a Surprise Party in the Midst of Your Sorrow

In 1995 Henry Strongin Goldberg was born. A few weeks later, doctors diagnosed him with a rare disease that compromised his bone marrow. Sadly, Henry passed away at the age of 7.

Though his life was short, Henry's happiness, despite his sickness, impacted a lot of people. Through their experience, Henry's parents realized the challenges families face in caring for seriously ill children. In 2003 Henry's mother, Laurie Strongin, started a foundation called Hope for Henry.

The purpose of Hope for Henry is to involve seriously ill children in their own treatments. A big part of their strategy is bringing happiness and laughter to these children. If I can describe Hope for Henry in a simplistic way, Hope for Henry is revolutionizing pediatric patient care by throwing parties. They are an entertainment company in a children's hospital. 

The people at Hope for Henry throw all sorts of parties for seriously ill children. They can put together a holiday party, birthday party, or a superhero party. They can put together almost any type of theme for a party with short notice. 

To date, Hope for Henry has revolutionized patient care through entertainment for over 42,000 children. 

The Party in the Hospital Lobby

I witnessed something like this during a visit to Scottish Rite Children's Hospital in Atlanta. I'm not sure if it was Hope for Henry, but as I passed through the hospital lobby I saw something I did not expect to see. I expected to see a lot of sad families with very sick children. What I saw was those families and their seriously ill children throwing a party in the hospital lobby. 

Their party impacted me, and their enthusiasm was contagious. I smiled as I reassessed the trivial nature of some of my own circumstances. Here was a group of people who made the decision to put their stress, sickness, and sorrow on hold and throw a party. 

Joy is a surprise party in the midst of your sorrow. The circumstances may not change. Your reasons for sadness still exist. But joy does give you reasons to suspend sorrow. It creates a place to party in unexpected places. 

The Suspension of Sorrow

Nehemiah calls attention to joy and suspends sorrow in Nehemiah 8. He has inherited a high-stress situation. Nehemiah and his people are reinhabiting a ruined city. They have just completed the first major project, the rebuilding of the walls surrounding Jerusalem. The project has been criticized and threatened. There have been setbacks. There is still much to rebuild, but they take a pause.

Nehemiah and Ezra, a priest, gather the people for the reading of the Book of the Law (Nehemiah 8:1). The people feel a deep sense of conviction as they listen to the Word of God. They realize that they have neglected to do what God commands them to do. So they weep (Nehemiah 8:9b). And then Nehemiah and Ezra respond in the most unusual way. They suspend sorrow and call for joy.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Nehemiah 8:9-10

The people are broken, but Nehemiah calls for them to throw a party. Why? Because "the joy of the Lord is your strength."

What Does "The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength" Mean?

The word strength translated in this verse is translated in Psalm 27:1 as the word "stronghold."

"The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?' Psalm 27:1. 

The word Nehemiah used is a word that describes a place that possesses a strength so that you can run into it and shelter quickly. The joy of the Lord is your strength.

The joy of the Lord is a party in a hospital lobby. It gives you a safe place in the midst of difficult circumstances where you can suspend sorrow for a time and celebrate. 

This week, I want to point you to the party that the joy of the Lord provides. There are times when we are so overwhelmed with sorrow that it would be nice to have something also to celebrate. So please follow this week's posts, and let's learn 3 truths about the joy of the Lord. (Next Post: Our Happy Host)

Bible Study

Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. 

  • What are the differences in worldly grief and godly grief? 
  • What actions and passions are produced by godly grief?
  • Now read the whole of Nehemiah 8. How does 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 help explain Nehemiah's call for action and passion in Nehemiah 8?


If you are in the midst of sorrow currently (or perhaps the next time you are in sorrow), recall some reasons also to rejoice. Take some time to celebrate those things as well. Have a meal. Gather some people. Have a party. Do something measurable that calls attention to your reasons for joy.

Last week's Posts:


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