Joy That Lasts

Note: This is the first in a three-part series on Psalm 63.

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. (Psalm 63:1-4)

David wrote this psalm while hiding in the desert from his murderous, usurper son, Absalom. Consider for a moment what he experienced: not just physical hunger, thirst, weariness, and heat, but isolation, separation from his family and those he loves, the loss of comfort and possessions, the stripping away of his status and vocation, and fear for his very life.

In a very real sense, then, David endured circumstances similar (though more extreme) to our present crisis. We are isolated and lonely, separated from many of our loved ones, stripped of much of our comfort, having lost wages (or wondering if we might), in danger of losing our jobs (or, in many cases, having lost aspects of our jobs that we enjoy—like preaching to a live audience!), and facing the threat of a deadly virus.

But notice how David responds. Despite the pain of loss and physical thirst, he recognizes that his deepest longing is spiritual: he thirsts for God (verse 1). Because only God can meet his deepest needs and desires, he deems God’s love better than good circumstances or even life itself (verse 3).

David could have given himself over to despair or fallen into anxiety and depression. But his response, simple as it is, steels his soul to persevere in trusting joy. We feel anxious when we worry about potential loss. We feel depressed in the face of actual loss. Because the loss is real, the draw is powerful. How do we fight for joy?

David sets the pattern. When facing loss, cling to that which cannot be lost and yet satisfies most deeply. He will praise God “as long as [he] live[s]” (verse 4), because he knows God will be with him as long as he lives. We must lift our eyes from the ephemeral to the eternal. Nothing can snatch us from God’s hands if we cling to him by faith in Christ. And in him we have all we need and desire, no matter how great the pain of loss in this life. That is cause for enduring joy.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Amen!

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