What the Book of Psalms Teaches Us About Joy
Joy is not something I could say that I have a lot of. When you struggle with depression, joy sometimes seems like a long-lost friend who never calls or visits. You can remember a time with her, but those moments are only memories. As a Christian, I’ve struggled with how to frame my depression with the idea of joy. There has been a lot said about sorrow and joy.
Many articles, podcasts, and books have been written to help us navigate sorrow and joy. Most of those things help us find joy when life throws us a curveball or we find ourselves unexpectedly facing a trial. (Death, divorce, heartache, illness, etc.)
What about the ordinary moments of life?
Sometimes those are the hardest to find joy in. For me, battling depression (that comes and goes weeks/months at a time) and finding joy has been even tougher. It is easy to seek God when things are difficult. We find ourselves devoid of all joy, we run to God for our joy right away.
What about normal days?
That is what I asked myself a few weeks ago. Our family went through a very painful and difficult summer last year. Our fall involved moving and settling into a new normal (one in which was met with all kinds of disappointment). As spring turns into summer this year I don’t want to be stuck in my everyday life without joy.
So how do we find joy in the simple 24 hours we live each day?
The answer is in Psalms. I love that the Book of Psalms is filled with verses about rejoicing and joy. The best part of it is – they are not verses like James 1: which says, “Count it all joy, brothers, when you fall into various trials.” Finding joy in deep trials is another lesson we can learn, but not one for today.
Today I want to talk about how to find joy right now. Today. The answer might be simple – but that’s the best kind of answer! Joy is found in God – who He is and what He is doing. No, joy will not be found in our circumstances. Yes, we can laugh at a joke or a silly child. In the moment we find joy swimming in the ocean or hiking the mountains.
I’m talking about having joy when you fold your next load of laundry. How to see joy when you vacuum the same stain on your carpet for the 100th time. Joy is even here, in the midst of daily depression that lingers longer than you thought possible.
God. The psalmist reminds us of five ways God brings us joy because of what He is doing and has done and will continue to do. Each of the action words below are true in the past, the present, and the future.
5 Ways God Brings Us Joy
- God defends us. (Psalm 5:11, Psalm 27:6, Psalm 67:4) God takes up our cause, brings justice, and defends us. We don’t have to defend ourselves. We don’t have to explain ourselves. We can rejoice in God’s defense of us.
- God’s closeness. (Psalm 16:11, Psalm 42:4, Psalm 63:1, 5, Psalm 89:15) God’s presence brings joy. If drawing near to God doesn’t bring you joy, you need to know God better! His love, mercy, and faithfulness in our lives is there. We can cry out to Him and pour out our hearts to Him. Drawing near to God, especially in prayer, can cause great rejoicing.
- God’s strength. (Psalm 21:1) Yes! God gives strength. I don’t know how, but He does. He gives us the strength to change into being more like Christ. God provides strength when we feel weak. Give God praise today because He is your strength.
- God’s forgiveness. (Psalm 32:1,11, Psalm 51:8, 12) This is a big one. Our sins were dark, and on our own, we are unable to even lift our eyes to God. In His mercy and for His glory He reached down and turned our blindness to sight. God forgives us our sins! This alone should cause us to weep with joy.
- God’s salvation. (Psalm 35:9; Psalm 98, Psalm 105:43) In the time of the Book of Psalms, many of the authors spoke of God’s salvation in reference to their enemies. God helped them in times of war or strife. Although I believe God still rescues us from our enemies, the ultimate source of our salvation is found in Jesus Christ! Praise God for this!
Three Names of God That Help Us Find God’s Joy
Those are some things God does to give us joy. In the next section, I want to mention three names that are used to help us find God’s joy. The first is in Psalm 149:2. It says, “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.” God is said to be “maker” and “King”.” Those two characteristics of God remind us that we can find our joy in Him. He created us in His image (Genesis 1-2) but for his glory! If we were created with intention and purpose, we can rejoice in a God who would love us so much.
The second is the word used mostly throughout the entire book of Psalms. The term “LORD” and your Bible probably uses all capital letters. This is a reference to God’s Covenant name with Israel. First mentioned in Exodus with Moses at the burning bush, God uses this name to remind the people that He is both a God of Promise and Power. When the Israelites were freed from Egypt, they needed a God who would not only keep His promises but have the power to.
God’s Character Helps Us Find Joy
This reminds us that finding joy in God is all wrapped up in who He says He is. His character is why we can rest in God and find joy. Let me leave you with these two verses. In Psalm 42 the author is overwhelmed with life and has no hope. In the midst of it, he says:
When I remember these things,Psalm 42:4-5
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
He will praise God again. Hope. Remember. Those are the key words!
Also, in Psalm 30:5 we might think we’ve run too far from God to find joy. Here is what the author says:
For His anger is but for a moment,Psalm 30:4-5
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
There is that word “remember” again! Remembering is how we find joy. Remembering who God is and what He is doing! Joy is coming. Joy is here. Today, choose joy.