What Makes Us Truly Happy?
Yes, joyful are those who live like this! Joyful indeed are those whose God is the LORD.
The bulk of Psalm 144 deals with David's role as king. He praises God for the help God has given him and he asks for more of it. Then, in verse 12, David changes course. He prays not just for himself, but also for his nation. In the form of a "wish prayer," he asks God to bless the people with strong, beautiful children, with generous harvests and abundant flocks, and with safety from enemies (144:12-14). He finishes the psalm by exclaiming: "Yes, joyful are those who live like this! Joyful indeed are those whose God is the LORD" (144:15).
The Hebrew word translated here as "joyful are" is ’ashrei, which could also be translated as "happy are." David begins by noting that those who are blessed with fine children, ample food, and physical safety are happy. Surely, those of us who have experienced any or all of these blessings can affirm David's insight.
But then he goes a step further, adding, "Joyful indeed are those whose God is the LORD" (144:15). He is not saying that if have faith in God, we will always receive the blessings of family, food, and security. Rather, he is recognizing that ultimate happiness entails more than earthly blessings. It is a result of knowing the one true God.
David, of all people, understands that this kind of happiness, however real it might be, is not constant. The psalms are filled with David's own cries for help in the midst of suffering. For example, in Psalm 6:6, David laments that he has been crying all night, drenching his bed with tears. So, the happiness we experience from relationship with God isn't one that blocks all pain. Rather, it is a deeper and more consistent happiness, one that we often call joy.
What makes us truly happy? Ultimately, true and lasting happiness is found in God and God alone.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are the things in life that give you the most happiness? How is it possible to be joyful even in the midst of disappointment, suffering, and loss?
PRAYER: Gracious God, first, I thank you for the blessings you have showered upon me. Thank you for my children, for ample and delicious food, and for the safety in which I live each day. Thank you for all the other temporal blessings you have given so generously to me. I am grateful for the joy I receive from your good gifts.
Yet, dear Lord, I thank you even more for the blessing of knowing you, for the assurance of knowing that you are my God. Thank you for inviting me into a relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Thank you for hanging onto me when I'm tempted to let go of you. Thank you for being there when I am weak. Thank you for the joy I feel because you are my God. Amen.