Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
I remember the day I asked Ann to marry me. There was a joy that seemed invincible, like my heart was going to explode. There were surely some difficult things happening in the world that day, but nothing could touch the joy of being with her. To some degree, we’ve all had that experience. The joy could have been rooted in a person or a place or a possession or a performance. Someone or something became a source of joy that nothing could eclipse. But even the most joyful experiences on earth have a time stamp. So we wear ourselves out chasing the next thing, or we become disillusioned and quit the search. In the middle of our confusion the Lord says, “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And we’re thinking, “Lord, that sounds great, but how?”
The secret to invincible joy is found in the relationship between glory and gladness. The joy of being engaged to Ann “glorified” her. To find such satisfaction in her made her look great. In a similar way, we declare the worth and glory of all kinds of things all the time. The joy we find in a car or a guitar, in a meal or a deal, in a gemstone or an iPhone, in a house or a spouse—that joy “glorifies” the person or thing that captures our affection. In one sense, there’s nothing wrong with this. The Lord created us as beings who glorify and enjoy. In another sense, this is the root of what’s wrong with us. Our sinful hearts are prone to worship the creation and ignore the Creator. We take good things and turn them into ultimate things. We worship the gift, not the Giver. When we find our deepest joys in creation, we fail to give God the glory He deserves, and eventually the joy runs out.
If this sounds like a dark story, it is. We have settled for the finite and turned away from the Infinite. We have sold our hearts to other lovers and scorned the Lover of our souls. We have worshiped the rays of light and turned away from the Sun. When we feel the darkness, we cry with David, I am poor and needy. Save Your servant. Be gracious to me, O Lord (Psalm 86:1-3). And the Lord hears our cry. He is good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon Him (Psalm 86:5). Jesus laid down His life for those who didn’t glorify or enjoy Him. He went to the cross to pay the price for our sin, and He rose from the grave to give us a new heart. The new heart declares, There is none like You among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Yours. For You are great and do wondrous things. I give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify Your name forever (Psalm 86:8,10,12).
By God’s grace, have we found what David found? A joy that is invincible? A presence that eclipses everything else? A well that never runs dry? If we know Jesus Christ, we begin to understand the call to “be joyful always”. For in Him we have a source of joy unlike any other. Our joy in Him brings Him glory and overflows in a life of praise that invites others to find life in His name.
In his Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis summarizes this connection between glory and gladness.
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with…. The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
Do we hear the invitation? Do we want our souls to be happy in Him? Let us pray together: Gladden the souls of Your servants, for to You, O Lord, do we lift up our souls.