Friday, January 20, 2017

WHY I WROTE HAPPINESS IN THE PSALMS

As a poet, I've long been drawn to the Book of Psalms, an anthology of sacred verse by divinely inspired Hebrew poets. The most famous of these was David, son of Jesse, Israel's shepherd-king, who poured out his life's story and his heart in works of timeless, universal appeal. His words matter to us today because what he felt is what we feel.

Throughout the Psalms runs a theme of the right life, the well-lived, meaningful life, introduced by the words "Happy is the one who..." As I've read and reread the Psalms, I've come to see that the "Happy is the one who..." verses describe a complete pathway to true happiness, a kind of happiness based not on instant gratification of selfish desires, but on a virtuous life centered on right care for oneself, right relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers, and, above all, on a right relationship with God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Source of life, the Giver of Law, and the Judge before Whom we will have to appear to give an account of how we have lived our lives on the earth.

It has been a blessing of mine in life to have had clear, sound teachers of Scriptural truth. Thanks to them, and thanks above all to the One Who revealed Scripture to us humans, God's creatures, and sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to help us understand it, I've been able to grasp some small part of God's pathway to happiness as revealed in the Book of Psalms. What I've grasped, I've tried to share with you.

In nineteen passages of Scripture, the Psalmists, as led by God's Holy Spirit, revealed to us their wisdom for a rightly lived, fulfilling life that'll bring you happiness. Their wisdom starts with telling us what behaviors we should avoid to keep from making ourselves and those around us unhappy. Only someone free from overwhelming pain can start to be happy.

Happiness, however, isn't just absence of pain, as some have taught, but the presence of life-sustaining, life-affirming, and life-building measures that benefit not only you who do them, but also the community to which you belong. True happiness isn't a matter of your doing the best that you can do alone. True happiness is rooted in a community of individuals who meet one another's needs and cherish one another's gifts. True happiness consists of peace that grows from right relationships among individuals who make justice and mercy their standard.

The source of justice and mercy that brings peace, as the sacred poets tell us, is the God Who teaches us a law of love. To be forgiven and to forgive, to love others as we love ourselves, and to love God as the Source and as the Judge of our lives is to live the law of love in acts that'll create happiness in ourselves and in those around us.

I've written this set of devotions from my perpective as a Christian, but I've tried to be careful to root what I've written in what the Psalmists would've known when they spoke the Psalms in God's name. At the same time, I've tried to make these devotions relevant to you whoever and wherever you are today. May it bless you to read them as it blessed me to write them!

You can learn more of about the Psalmists' way to happiness in
Happiness in the Psalms. You can read its opening for free.

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