Friday, September 3, 2010

The 'secret' to happiness and other interesting tidbits from the Psalms

Today's post if very 'psalmcentric' - which is closely related to 'psalmtastic' but slightly different, anyway - and as always, you can read the day's lectionary passage, including the psalms by clicking here:
So, last week I mentioned that I often don't really 'get' the psalms, they are filled with beautiful poetic language of worship to God and I can appreciate that, but I just don't relate to it all that well sometimes (or hardly ever).  So, I often end up skipping the psalms or sort of mentally checking out when I am reading or listening to a psalm.  
But that, I think, means that I end up missing a lot of good stuff from time to time.  Like today, for instance.  
Today's first reading is Psalm 84, which is fairly well known, if for no other reason than it is a popular (or at least once was a popular) worship song.  It begins by complementing God on his house, or 'dwelling place' and then the author speaks of how they long to be in the courts (or in the presence of) God, concluding the second verse by saying that 'my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God'.  Again - this is what I am talking about, I am not entirely sure that my 'heart and flesh' have ever sang (for joy or any other reason).  
But hopefully you are with us and paying attention because the 'secret' to happiness is about to be shared.  In verses 4 & 5 the psalmist throws it right out there: Happy are those who live in your house (ever singing your praise); Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
So at first this all may seem like more poetic fluff, but the psalms are sort of like songs and sometimes the lyrics are incredibly important.
This is one of those times.  
The simple truth is this: we find happiness in relationship with our creator and our God, in being so deeply involved in that relationship, so regularly seeking to praise and worship God that we live at his house, 'ever singing your praise'.  
We find happiness when we stop trying to do it all (or any of it) ourselves and begin to rely on the abundant and never ending strength of our savior Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.  
We find happiness in this life when our hearts and minds and lives are set, not on our own plans, desires or goals, but when we are focused and single-minded in striving for the race that God has marked out for us, when we are walking along the road of life that God has called us to.  
We years of our lives striving for the next 'thing' that will fulfill us or make us happy.  But we can never be satisfied with stuff; there are not enough things, or power or money in this world to truly satiate our hunger.  Our hearts, lives and souls can only truly be at peace - and we can only really have joy (a lasting happiness not dependent on circumstance) when we are dwelling in our relationship with Jesus Christ and asking the Holy Spirit to fill what some have called the 'God-shaped hole' that is in each of us.  
Don't believe that this works?  We need to only look as far as today's Old Testament reading from Job to see the proof.  If you are not familiar with the story of Job it is a sad tale of a man (Job) that loses everything in his life (money, property, family, loved ones, physical health, friends) and is prodded again and again to blame God.  But he never does.  In fact in verse 25 Job says this: 'For I know that my Redeemer lives , and that at the last he will stand upon the earth . . . . then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold . . . My heart faints within me!  
This isn't a sappy love song, this is a man in great pain, grief and suffering who has lost everything (or almost everything) that can still cling to joy and hope with such faith and trust that his 'heart faints'.    
A little 'P.S.' here: one of the other Psalms for the day, Psalm 40 is also a song, sung by U2 - my favorite band and one of my favorite songs.  It talks about happiness to, saying 'happy are those that make their trust in the Lord'.  But a little later, in verse 10, is the part that I think we are supposed to come away with: 

I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

You see, the 'secret' to happiness isn't supposed to be a secret at all.  God has given us access to an unfathomable joy in relationship with him, and he expects us to respond to that gift by sharing the good news of it with others and inviting them into the same relationship.  
So let us go and share the joy of the Lord - the 'secret' to happiness with the world around us.  


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