By Kristen Wetherell
Everybody likes to be happy.
From the ripe young age of two, kids sing along with their parents, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”(clap, clap). Marketing messages are everywhere, proclaiming a product or service’s ability to make our lives just that much happier. And we even had a pop music hit this year called “Happy” that reached the top of the charts.
Let’s be real: we’re obsessed with happiness.
I wonder what shift would occur if this quest for happiness became a quest for joy. Deep, lasting, anchored joy. Often the search for joy is masqueraded (even unknowingly so) by relentless acts of happiness, one after another. For some people, there may not even be an obvious difference between the two.
But if a person were to really search, to dig deeply into the desires of his or her heart, that person would soon find that happiness just isn’t good enough. Happiness fades. Happiness disappoints. Happiness is a lukewarm, fickle, unfaithful companion.
The human pursuit of happiness should cause us to ponder if we are selling out for something less-than-wholly-true.
This is why Psalm 33 is so compelling. There is absolutely no mistaking the joy of the Psalmist when he proclaims loudly in the opening, “Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!” You can almost taste the sweetness of such a proclamation! You can almost hear the glad, audible shout as if it were happening in the same room! Here we find a joy wholly true.
If you’re like me, you can hear your heart pound and feel it swell at the glad command as you think, “This is for me! I want to be this joyful! Show me how!”
But there’s the catch. Joy is not a “how” but a “who.” Joy is not circumstantial but is rooted in one immutable Object. Joy is not a reaction but a steadfast proclamation, a deep knowing, a trusted understanding, based on truth.
What truth? These truths:
“For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness” (Psalm 33:4). God’s every word is true and trustworthy. His every work is wrought out of his faithful being. What joy is found in knowing there is a Person and a Word whom we can trust, with every fiber of our being.
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made…He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap” (vv. 6-7). The power of the Lord is unmatched, and he finds all power within himself. The Word is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was “in the beginning with God. All things were made through him” (John 1:2-3). So we confess our powerlessness, knowing the Source of all power is for us, holding the world in his hands.
“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever…” (vv. 10-11). The truth is that God is perfectly wise! And he is wise for all eternity. What joy there is in knowing that our God is the fount of all wisdom and understanding, as he humbles our own limited plans for our good and his glory. He is the One who gives knowledge and enlightens the darkened hearts of sinful, rebellious men and women to the glory of the cross.
“The king is not saved by his great army…the war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue…” (vv. 16-17). All other earthly substitutes are cheap, fallible, unsatisfying and only contribute to the never-ending chain of false-happiness-fillers that attempt to masquerade as deep, lasting joy. There will be no joy found in false hope.
“…Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death” (vv. 18-19). Oh, praise the Lord for deliverance found in Jesus Christ, the "Who" men should seek with all their hearts! He has given us true hope by rescuing us from death. Our joy is rooted and built up in him, the Son of God who taught us, by his reverent submission to the Father, how to worship in the fear of the Lord. The One who deserved to stay seated at the right hand of the Father but condescended to draw near to you and to me…so that fullness of joy could be ours in his name! (Psalm 16:11).
“For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name” (v. 21). This is gladness! This is joy! That all of God’s children would trust in his holy name - he who simply is. That he, the Great I Am, will finish what he began in his great, wise salvation plan. That he, in Christ, will graciously transform our feeble attempts at happiness by lavishing upon us so much more of himself, his grace and truth, from now unto eternity.
Because joyful praise is what we will forever sing in heaven, we pray to do even now: “Shout for joy in the Lord!”
Almighty Father, I pray that all our joy would be found in Christ! Remove from our hearts the desire to place our security in anything besides You. Teach us how to fear You, knowing Your steadfast love abundantly covers all our sins. Thank You for bestowing on us the righteousness of Christ, making our joy complete.
[This post was written for Unlocking the Bible |Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net]